East of Eden (Paperback)
|The book that brought Oprah's Book Club back!|
In his journal, John Steinbeck called East of Eden "the first book," and indeed it has the promordial power and simplicity of myth. Set in the rich farmland of California's Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel.
Adam Trask came to California from the East to farm and raise his family on the new, rich land. But the birth of his twins, Cal and Aron, brings his wife to the brink of madness, and Adam is left alone to raise his boys to manhood. One boy thrives, nurtured by the love of all those around him: the other grows up in loneliness, enveloped by a mysterious darkness.
First published in 1952, East of Eden is the work in which Steinbeck created his most mesmerizing characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity, the inexplicability of love, and the murderous consequences of love's absence. A masterpiece of Steinbeck's later years, East of Eden is a powerful and vastly ambitious novel that is at once a family saga and a modern retelling of the Book of Genesis.
About the Author:
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
From the Publisher:
The biblical account of Cain and Abel is echoed in the history of two generations of the Trask family in California.
John Steinbeck's last significant work of fiction (1952), a huge family saga based on the book of Genesis, is set in the Salinas Valley of the author's youth. Beginning with the purchase of a parcel of rich California farmland by Samuel Hamilton, who comes from Ireland with his wife, EAST OF EDEN traces the turbulent lives of the Hamilton and Trask families from the Civil War to the end of World War I. Adam Trask marries a prostitute who bears him twin sons--the Cain and Abel figures--and their rivalry shadows the second half of the novel, culminating in tragedy. Steinbeck had hoped to revive his failing career with this epic work, but though a best-seller, EAST OF EDEN was not well received by critics. However, because of its epic sweep and dramatic story, as well as its function as a virtual history of the Salinas Valley, the book has endured as an American classic. It was made into a memorable movie in 1955, directed by Elia Kazan and starring James Dean.
"Probably the best of John Steinbeck's novels, 'East of Eden' is long but not 'big', and anyone who, deceived by its spread in space and time (c.1860-1920), says that it is 'epical in its sweep,' is merely in the usual grip of cliche....Through the exercise of a really rather remarkable freedom of his rights as a novelist, Mr. Steinbeck weaves in, and more particularly around, this story of prostititution a fantasia of history and of myth that results in a strange and original work of art." - Mark Schorer 9/21/52