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Steinbeckathon 2012: East of Eden

75 Books Challenge for 2012

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Edited: Jul 2, 2012, 12:17am Top

"And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about."

Edited: Jul 2, 2012, 12:07am Top

This is the discussion thread for John Steinbeck's East of Eden.
Ellen (EBT1002) will be hosting this thread.
Spoilers are welcome, but please indicate them in your message out of
respect for those who are reading at a different pace. Enjoy!

Steinbeckathon main thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/130105

Jul 1, 2012, 11:54pm Top

The first post will be a work in progress while I experiment with some HTML, but the bottom line is: in July we are reading East of Eden. I am the host and I hope we have a great group joining in.

Jul 2, 2012, 12:15am Top

Good going Ellen! I'm standing by if you need me, but I think you've got this all figured out already. I'll be going offline shortly, but tomorrow is another day, no big rush!

Jul 2, 2012, 2:05am Top

Good morning Ellen! Great thread - thanks for setting it up and hosting it!

Jul 2, 2012, 2:44am Top

Yay, there it is! Great thread, Ellen!

I never watched the movie and so far I managed to stay unspoiled re. the plot. My copy has 728 pages of which I already read 448, and love the book since page 1.

Jul 2, 2012, 12:27pm Top

I'm really looking forward to this one. Thanks, Ellen, for setting up the thread and for hosting.

Jul 2, 2012, 12:59pm Top

Great quote Ellen!

#6 Nathalie, at that rate you'll be done before I've even picked it up! I'm finishing up something else before starting on EoE, so it might be another few days, up to a week before I do.

Edited: Jul 2, 2012, 4:28pm Top

I'm in for East of Eden! I've been loving every one of the Steinbeck novels we've read this year.

I think I may try to read a few chapters every day, to stick to some sort of schedule. There are fifty-some chapters, I think. As of today, I am on schedule!

I've got the DVD of the movie from the library, but I think I will wait until after I finish the book to see the movie.

Here we go!

Karen O.

Jul 3, 2012, 6:21am Top

I talked my local (small) book club into making EoE our summer read with a movie night in August. One of them has already finished it and was very happy with the choice. I'm through part 1 and into part 2. It hasn't grabbed me like some of the others, but I'm still enjoying it.

Jul 3, 2012, 5:21pm Top

I read someplace that East of Eden echoes/references/has similarities to/ the biblical book of Genesis? I'm through chapter 6, and I'm already picking up on some of those allusions. Adds to the interest of the read, for me (like a puzzle).

Karen O.

Edited: Jul 3, 2012, 6:33pm Top

Karen O, thanks for sharing that. I haven't done much research on EofE yet, and that will help with my enjoyment. I'm tentatively planning to take the tome with me on my travels which start this Friday.

And it's great to see folks chiming in and planning to read (or already enjoying reading) along!

Jul 4, 2012, 2:51am Top

#11: I am reading the German translation this time, so I don't know if it was intended, but the language, especially in the beginning, sounds 'biblical' to my non-expert ear. Very old-fashioned and monumental (big and weighty) expressions are used.

Jul 5, 2012, 1:05am Top

This is me, hosting the thread.

Feel free to chat among yourselves. :-)

(I plan to start reading it this weekend.)

Jul 5, 2012, 9:45am Top

I haven't started it yet either, Ellen.

Jul 5, 2012, 3:46pm Top

Finished part 2 and started part 3. I like Lee and what we get to know about him, thanks to Samuel seeing beyond the stereotypes.

I admit that I have enjoyed the short novels very much.
But EoE is a bit like GoW for me so I'm finding this one hard going. The writing is still great, but the story is depressing and frustrating. All of which, I think, means that Steinbeck is accomplishing what he was after.

Jul 5, 2012, 4:04pm Top

I'm a hundred pages in, still working in little chunks each day. I'm sure that I'll want to move faster once I get farther along.

Lauranav, I agree--the story is not real upbeat, is it?! hehe...all the same, the book is (once again) great writing.

Karen O.

Edited: Jul 6, 2012, 4:40pm Top

I'm at page 230 (chapter 17) and my reading is not very fluent. It takes me some effort to read EoE inspite of reading it in German. But I was quite tired the whole week, so this might explain the difficulty.

Nevertheless I like Steinbeck's writing very much: his sharp psychological observations, his detailed descriptions and his philosophical approaches (I loved the quote Ellen chose for the beginning, when I came across it in the book!)

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I plan to watch it after having finished the book.

Concerning the biblical references: This is very interesting and I will need to look a few things up. The Kain & Abel-reference is obvious, but I have to take a deeper look at it.
#13: Nathalie, I noticed the "monumental" language, too!

I am not sure if you're interested in stuff like that, but on the following homepage you can find additional informations hints and clues for reading it - but ATTENTION: There could be some SPOILERS: http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/eastofeden

Edited to warn about potential spoilers.

Jul 6, 2012, 3:46pm Top

Thanks for the link to the Spark Notes--I think I'll wait to read it further (I took a quick look, but encountered a little "spoiler"-yikes, I should've known better) until after I finish EofE, but it will sure be handy then.

I'm with you--wait until after reading the book to watch the movie.

I'm finding that I really need to pace my reading of this book; otherwise, it seems like too big of a job. I guess I felt that way about the really BIG books I've read--Middlemarch, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, etc--they are just, physically, so big, that they seem insurmountable. So, the "little pieces" approach.

Karen O.

Jul 6, 2012, 4:38pm Top

I'm sorry, Karen! I should have warned about the possibility of spoilers! I haven't thought of it, but I fixed it in my message #18. I hope I haven't deprived you from too much reading fun!

Jul 7, 2012, 7:28pm Top

Like I said, I should have known better! It was a very small spoiler, one that I could see coming anyway. So, no harm at all. The site will be terrific to use afterwards, so thanks!

Karen O.

Edited: Jul 8, 2012, 6:00am Top

That's a relief, Karen. :)

By the way: Directly after my lamenting about my slow reading it totally changed and I read another hundred pages in no time. Now, I am at page 470 (chapter 31) and I'm getting more and more caught in the story - it's such a great piece of literature!

Jul 10, 2012, 6:20pm Top

Finished part 3 and deep into part 4 now. I'm wondering if there is more to having the Hamiltons story aside the Trask story.
I suspect there are similarities and differences that I'm not seeing yet.

Jul 11, 2012, 8:17pm Top

Finished. All that time spent with the Trasks and the Hamiltons, and Lee is my favorite of all.

Jul 15, 2012, 11:42am Top

I have just finished East of Eden. Despite the difficulties I had at the beginning I can now say that I loved the book until the very last word. It's one of the most meaningful and intelligent novels I have read in a long time: the question of identy, the aspects of good and evil and the struggle for love - these are all basic questions to human beings. And before I start spoilering anything, I will wait and look forward to your opinions.

Jul 16, 2012, 3:22pm Top

You make me so excited to keep reading! I'm well into part 3, heading for part 4 tonight, maybe. East of Eden was a little difficult for me at the start--once I figured out who was who, and what was going on, then it went a little easier. This might be my favorite Steinbeck yet (but I say that about whichever one I've just read!)

Karen O.

Jul 22, 2012, 1:10am Top


It may be a small thing, but as the theoretical host of the thread, the least I can do is keep it showing up on folks' starred lists. :-)

Jul 22, 2012, 8:57am Top

I am plugging away. Not that it is difficult reading, just very busy with other things in my life right now. I may not finish it by the end of the month but I will definitely finish it early in August. Love Steinbeck!

Jul 22, 2012, 4:58pm Top

I finished Wolf Hall on Friday evening, which I wanted to put behind me before starting on EoE since it was a tutored read and it was really mentally challenging for me, so I really wanted to be fully present for this latest Steinbeck of ours. I'm glad I went about it this way because as soon as I plunged into East of Eden I was pulled right in, with every sentence somehow holding me captive. I read this book when I was 16 I think, and also saw the movie back then, when I was infatuated with James Dean, but sometimes my very poor memory is actually quite convenient, because other than a very early and very dramatic passage involving the young Adam and Charles, I don't remember any of it, so it's all new to me again, with just very faint impressions of déjà vu here and there.

I'm a slow reader and haven't had much reading time so far this w/e, so haven't gotten very far, but last night read chapter 8 about the beastly Cathy Ames, which held me in complete fascination. As others have mentioned already, this is definitely quite a bleak story about very complex characters, but going into it knowing that from the outset, with only the clear memory of how BRILLIANT I found this book when I read it the first time, I've gone into it looking at it as a social and a character study more than anything, so don't find it drags me down at all. Not so far anyway.

For those of you who have finished: CONGRATULATIONS! Keep in mind you have every freedom to discuss parts of the novel which may constitute spoilers, as long as you CLEARLY identity them as such (indicating which chapter you're discussing is helpful). Your comments are welcome and appreciated!

Thanks Kathy for providing the link to the SparkNotes. I'll be referring to them eventually, but will try to avoid spoilers for now, though I look forward to the insights to be found there.

For those of you who like me are going quite slowly about it, or who haven't' started yet, DON'T DESPAIR! For one thing, this isn't a race, and you can take all the time you need. For another, when we set up the schedule for the Steinbeckathon, we made sure to slot a very short book in August (The Red Pony, which is just over 100 pages), so that those who want to follow our agenda can easily take the next 6 weeks to finish this one.

Jul 22, 2012, 5:24pm Top

I finished up this morning, abandoning my slow-but-steady approach (which worked well for me again with this book) because I just had to know what happened next, and I was so close to the end...

Excellent, excellent read. It's so much a story of good and evil, and how we are a mixture of both (well, some characters in this book were pretty much just evil, hehe).

This one will stay with me for a long time, I'm sure. And I've got the movie version waiting for me at the library!

Now, I think I'll go check out the SparkNotes page.

Karen O.

Jul 22, 2012, 8:57pm Top

29> Ilana, thank you for the reminder not to despair. My reading of this may (will) bleed into August, but with only The Red Pony ahead for next month, I have some breathing room. Like you, I'm trying to finish Wolf Hall (both a wonderful novel and a very slow read for me, as well!) before starting in on this Steinbeck classic.

Jul 23, 2012, 4:50pm Top

I truly sympathize with you readers of Wolf Hall; I have gone so far as to buy my own copy of WH, but with one look, I knew I wouldn't be able to read both it and East of Eden this month. It is very dense, isn't it?! I'll get to Wolf Hall soon, I hope!

Karen O.

Edited: Jul 24, 2012, 6:53pm Top

Just a reminder that we'll keep this thread active at least until the end of August -- so, no pressure on those of us who are not into the reading yet.

Jul 30, 2012, 5:29pm Top

I got a chance to watch the movie version (the one with James Dean and Julie Harris) and, except for Julie Harris's role, I found it a disappointing movie. They had only two hours to try to reproduce East of Eden, and settled for a version of the subplot that occurs at the end of the book. Left out all of the great characters, put in some trivial little ones. So, bah humbug for that version.

BUT! I came across another version at the library--it's a TV version, so six hours long, and the blurb says that it stays truer to the book (wouldn't have to go far to stay truer!). I'm really looking forward to viewing it.

Karen O.

Jul 31, 2012, 7:46am Top

Ah, the movies. I'm struggling with that. My book club likes to do a movie night once a year for some book we've read and when I talked them into reading EoE they decided to make that the movie. But now at least 2 of us realize there is no way a 2 hour movie can do any kind of justice to the book (as you confirm Karen) and we can't coordinate all of us to get together enough times to watch a 6 hour version.

We've had issues with this before. We watched the Keira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice. This one was a little different because we hadn't actually read the book, so I had to keep pausing the movie and explaining the dozen chapters that had just been skipped or squeezed into a glance across a dance floor or something. It was kind of funny. I enjoyed the movie, but those who hadn't read the book felt it was hard to follow.

And then a friend watched one of the versions of The Count of Monte Cristo after we read that, and she said it was disappointing because they had to leave so much out. But you just can't get a whole book across in a 2 hour movie. :-)

Jul 31, 2012, 7:06pm Top

Yep, they just can't do it! (fit a whole book's worth of plot and characters into a 2 hour movie).

Take the versions of Jane Eyre--they're mostly all horrible, even the recent one. But Masterpiece Theatre did a televised version that is four hours long, and it is really good (as are the cast members--I didn't think there was a clinker in the bunch).

And, now that you mention it, the only Pride and Prejudice I like is the mini-series with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I think that one was six hours long (just looked - 323 minutes).

I have great hopes for the long-running EofE. I'll let you know! 8>)

Karen O.

Aug 3, 2012, 10:37pm Top

Love the movie discussion. Only very rarely does a movie manage to convey a book well, but I have been known to discover books because I saw the movies first, so sometimes they're good advertising for reading!

As I was linking up the thread for The Red Pony (August's official selection for the Steinbeckathon) on the main thread, I noticed I'd forgotten to link this one. That's taken care of now. Sorry about the omission.

Aug 8, 2012, 6:32pm Top

I just finished viewing the 1981 televised mini-series of East of Eden, and was very pleased with the series. The characters that we love are prominently featured, and the nasty character is, indeed, quite nasty. The locations and costumes are gorgeous, and the actors are terrific. Lloyd Bridges as Samuel Hamilton is wonderful; Soon Tek-Oh as Lee is great as well. I never would have thought of Jane Seymour for Cathy, but she did wonderfully; her character is scarier because she is so beautiful on the outside.

The series stuck very close to the Steinbeck novel, and that was a treat. I was so disappointed in the 1955 movie that I paid extra attention to how the video matched to the book, and was amply rewarded with the 1981 mini-series.

Karen O.

Aug 8, 2012, 6:59pm Top

Karen - That is so good to know! I had no idea there was a mini-series until you mentioned it here - I will have to hunt it down.

Aug 12, 2012, 9:19pm Top

I just finished writing my review of East of Eden now. It was quite an undertaking! Should take me less time to read The Red Pony! Here's the link to it if anyone's interested: http://www.librarything.com/work/2499/reviews/68726767

Aug 22, 2012, 3:38pm Top

#40: Nice review, Ilana!

I still haven't had the time to watch the movie adaptation, but your thought about the different versions are very interesting. I haven't known about the mini-series and I will try to get my hands on that one.

Aug 31, 2012, 7:58pm Top

Still plugging away. Just too busy!

Aug 31, 2012, 10:05pm Top

>42 ccookie: ccookie, I gave up a long time ago! I'll have to try again later .... I am looking forward to what you have to say about it, though. I loved your Of Mice and Men review. : )

Sep 1, 2012, 12:16am Top

> 43 thanks. I'm actually really liking it but just haven't had time

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2012

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