Lord of the Flies, Where Everyone Hates the Smart, Fat Kid

#8 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Published:
1954
Reasons For Being Banned/Challenged: 
Challenged at the Owen, NC High School (1981) because the book is “demoralizing inasmuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal.”
My Rating: 1 Powerful Conch Shell

Hello dear readers.  It’s been much too long since our last Banned Book Chat.  I wish I had a good enough excuse as to why I haven’t written anything recently (moving back to the United States into my parents’ house, or looking for a new job, or anything justifiable) other than the fact that I didn’t really like Lord of the Flies but I don’t.  I just really didn’t like Lord of the Flies.

Flipping through it, I thought it should be easy.  Barely 200 pages, 12 chapters, and a fat kid gets killed.  How long of a read would it be?  Long enough, apparently.  I realized that if I know someone is going to be killed before reading a book, I want instant gratification.  Everyone who hasn’t read Lord of the Flies like I didn’t, basically know two things about it: kids are on a desert island, and Piggy gets offed because he sucks.

I knew something was wrong with me when I read Piggy’s complaining and was like, You’re right, Piggy.  These other kids are little assholes.  From page one, I was sympathizing with the annoyingly useless kid on the island.  He couldn’t collect firewood, or help hunt.  But he was smart, rational, and had glasses for fire.  I’m sorry, but I feel like for any tribe, the one who makes fire IS THE MOST IMPORTANT.  Everyone should have been kissing Piggy’s fat ass instead of teasing him.  Bunch of jerks.

Lord of the Flies was basically the English children’s version of Survivor without Jeff Probst riding a skidoo at the finale from Borneo (or wherever they’re Survivor-ing from) to New York City with the vase of winning votes.  It may have been nicer if the kids were just like, “Piggy, the tribe has spoken… you suck” and kicked him off instead of smashing him to oblivion.

Of course, the two characters I did like were Simon and Piggy.  I am still grieving over Simon and never want to hear anyone chant, Kill the pig! Cut his throat! Kill the pig! Bash him in! ever in my entire life.  And reading this book was like one giant cliffhanger for me.  I was turning pages carefully, waiting for the moment to come where Jack — the ginger from hell — would just murder poor, fat, smart Piggy.

Only to find out that it isn’t even Jack who kills him!  Fucking Roger hides his psychotic tendencies the entire novel until Jack gives the okay to become savages and he just goes bananas.  Sticking sharp sticks up live pigs’ rectums, killing Piggy with giant boulders, and hunting down Ralph with the intention to cut his head and offer it to the beast of the island as a sacrifice.  Holy lord, this kid is a maniac.

Even better, whenever that conch shell was mentioned, I immediately thought of that episode of SpongeBob Squarepants where he and Patrick start worshiping this magic conch shell that they use to tell them what to do.  And when they are abandoned somewhere, the conch shell tells them to do nothing… so they sit there, driving Squidward insane.

What really bummed me out about Lord of the Flies was how both nothing happened, and everything happened all too soon.  The first eight chapters are of these English boys trying to survive on a beautiful island, electing Ralph as chief, and doing whatever they can to survive.  Jack was being a bit of a spoiled brat most of the time, but then all of a sudden everything shifts.

The last four chapters try to throw in all the chaos with Jack Merridew (best last name ever, by the way) breaking away and taking all the others with him.  And then IT happens.  Those savage little brats kill Simon.  Poor Simon!  He was the best thing on that crappy island.  Although he did begin tweaking out, walking alone in the jungle at night, and having hallucinating seizures.  But other than those issues, he was the best one!  So he had to be killed.  Way to Game of Thrones me, Golding.  Killing the TWO characters I liked and leaving those shit kids alive and well.

It also just ended so abruptly.  Right when things get good, with the kids setting the entire forest on fire, beginning the man hunt for Ralph, Piggy finally getting bowled off a cliff, and complete chaos breaking loose, a military ship sees the smoke and comes to rescue the boys.

Of course, the adults think the kids are just playing games, unknowing of how savage they have become.  And when one asks if anyone has died as a joke, Ralph is like, “Yeah, asshole.  Two of my friends.  But don’t worry, their bodies got swept into the ocean.”  Even better is when he asks who is in charge and Ralph steps up saying, “I AM,” while Jack Merridew shrivels into himself and realizes how he is weak.

And then Ralph cries from sadness, causing the other boys to cry, causing the military man to turn away, because of the awkwardness of the situation THE END.

Seriously, that is how it ends.  THAT IS HOW IT ENDS.

Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy.

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Beloved, the Classic I Really Wanted to Love

#7 Beloved – Toni Morrison
Published: 1988
Reasons For Being Banned/Challenged: Challenged at the St. John’s county Schools in St. Augustine, Florida (1995) and by a member of the Madawaska, Maine School Committee (1997) because of the book’s language.
My Rating: The Haunting at 124

You can pretty much tell how invested I am in a book by how quickly I can write a blog post about it.  And Beloved had all the ingredients towards being an awesome read: murder, haunted houses with ghost babies, and … I guess that’s it.  I should also warn you that there are going to be a lot of Supernatural gifs within this post so yeah, get ready for that.

With many of the books on my Challenged List, I had no real knowledge of what the books are about.  After giving up 2% into Ulysses, I thought Beloved would be the jumpstart I needed in my reading.  It sounded interesting enough with its post-slavery setting, mostly female cast, and ghosts(!).  But I was wrong.  It took me a month to read this measly 300-pager.  I was so not interested in this book that in the month I tried to read this, I was able to read four other books while ignoring Sethe, Denver, Paul D, and Beloved’s stories.

So where did I go wrong?  Why was I so dissuaded from this novel?  I will say that Morrison started off strong.  Within the first paragraph, no, the first sentence, I was interested:  “124 was spiteful.  Full of a baby’s venom.”  I was like, “Oh shit, this is going to be so good!”  I was giddy on the train, wiggling in my seat, waiting for some more ghost baby hauntings.

But then things shifted.  We went from ghost baby fingerprints in flour to Sethe crying over the sink, going on about having a tree on her back.  And I was lost.  These timeline jumps in the narratives, combined with the stream of consciousness narration had me so confused, I had to retrace a lot of my steps to figure out where I was supposed to be.

I would be with Sethe, as she talks about how they stole their milk from her (and that was something that took me a long time to understand) and then all of a sudden, we were inside Paul D’s head, as he came around her and cupped her breasts in his hands.  And then we would be twenty years in the past, talking about Sixo’s girlfriend who didn’t have a name, but was called thirty-mile-girl.  And this confusion is all in the first few pages.

Reading Beloved was like watching Memento.  There was the same story being told on two different planes.  The past being the black and white scenes, the present being the colored ones.  But with Beloved, there was no way in telling when you were reading a scene from the past, or  the future until you were a couple paragraphs in and you were thinking, Wait, what were we just talking about three sentences ago?  I said that a lot.

And poor Paul D.  He just wanted what’s best for both Sethe and Denver.  But instead he got Beloved banging on his door, asking for the sex.  And I guess I should clarify what is all happening within this novel.  Sethe is being haunted by the ghost of her two-year-old daughter after she murdered her.  Sethe — as well as many of the other characters — were born and raised into slavery, and eventually fled.  But when Sethe made it to freedom, her slaveowner tracked her down, and tried to bring her back — thanks the to Fugitive Slave Act.  But Sethe believed it was better for her children to be dead than slaves, and attempted to kill all four of them.

But she only succeeded in killing her two-year-old baby, which she called Beloved on her gravestone.  The baby’s ghost then begins haunting the house at 124, causing both of Sethe’s sons to run away.  Which, honestly, I am not surprised to hear.  I would have thrown deuces and peaced out of there a looooong time ago.  Once furniture is thrown at me, and baby giggling sounds are heard in the hallways of my babyless home, I am Audi 5000.

All Sethe has is Denver, her youngest daughter who is at this point eighteen, but completely alone after the town alienates their family.  But after Paul D comes, he gets rid of the ghost spirit by yelling at it, Sethe asks him to stay, Denver becomes jealous, and a random girl lands on their doorstep with clean clothes, no recollection of how she got here, and goes by the name Beloved.  And nobody is like, Wait a minute here, your name is Beloved like my dead daughter/sister?  And you’re, what?  Twenty years old?  The same age my daughter/sister would be now if she was alive?  Something is pretty fishy here.

Nope.  They’re like, Come on in!  Pull up a chair!

Denver seems to be the only one like, “Dude, this is my dead sister.”  Sethe could care less, and Paul D is like, Hell no, get this creep out of here.  And Beloved is obsessed with Sethe.  So she does what is best to get rid of Paul D: she creeps him out and forces him to have sex with her …?  That works…?

But what really gets Paul D out of there is when Stamp Paid, the man who brought Sethe across the river to freedom, tells him the story of Sethe killing her baby.  That makes him run out of there faster than shit from a goose.

With just Beloved, Sethe, and Denver living at 124, things start getting a bit… weird.  Beloved and Sethe become obsessed with each other — Beloved enjoys reminding Sethe how she murdered her, Sethe reminding Beloved how she did it out of love.  Beloved says jump, Sethe asks how high, and Beloved yells at her for not jumping high enough.  Sethe is so dedicated to not leaving Beloved’s side that she lost her job because she just stopped going.

Poor Denver is like, What the hell, guys?  I’m here too!  So she begins leaving her house and talking with others in her black community, asking for work, and getting donations of food from locals.  I’ve gotta hand it to Denver.  She saw how awful things had become with Beloved and Sethe so she decided to change it.  She left her home for the first time since she was eight, and reached out to her community.

And once the town discovers why Denver needs help — i.e., her dead sister’s ghost is parasiting her mother to death — they ban together to exorcize Beloved out of the house.  But Mr. Bodwin, a white man who comes to pick up Denver for a job, comes at the same time.  And when he pulls up at the same time the townswomen come to exorcize Beloved, Sethe and Beloved — who is now naked and fat, maybe even pregnant? — walk out onto the porch.

When Sethe sees a white man coming up to get Denver, she freaks out, and tries to attack him with an ice pick.  But one of the townswomen punched Sethe in the jaw to stop her, and knocked her out cold.  And right then, Beloved was gone.

The novel ends with Sethe sick and wanting to die because Beloved is gone, Denver is a working girl, doing what she can to make some money for herself and her mother, and Paul D comes back to Sethe, telling her that he loves her and wants to be with her.

And everyone in town has forgotten all about Beloved.

By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what it is down there.  The rest is weather.  Not the breath of the disremembered and unaccounted for, but wind in the eaves, or spring ice thawing too quickly.  Just weather.  Certainly no clamor for a kiss.

Beloved.

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An Open Letter to James Joyce

Dear James Joyce,

I don’t really know how I would start this letter because I am neither that big a fan of your work, nor that interested in how you are these days — mostly because you are very much so dead.  So I guess the best way to do this is to just dive right in.

I’ve been attempting to read your “legendary” novel, Ulysses, for the past month and let me tell you something: it isn’t going well.  Now, I consider myself to be a very capable reader.  I can understand and break down themes, hidden metaphors, and unreliable narrators.  I have read my fair share of classic literary works and I usually only have a few bad things to say about them.

I have even read Homer’s The Odyssey, the work you based this door-stopper of a novel, a couple of times.  When I was in college, my Greek Literature professor even told the guys in our class not to sell their copies of it back to bookstores because nothing makes a man look sexy and smart than having The Odyssey on their bookshelves.  And I decided to keep my copy too.  Not to help me pick up men, but because if I was going to drudge through the 10-year struggle of Odysseus getting back to his wife, I was going to keep the evidence and brag about it when possible.

But you, sir.  I am seriously contemplating throwing this novel out the nearest window, and watching passing cars drive over it repeatedly while I sport a shit-eating grin.  You have taken all of the amazingness of Homer’s epic poem and shit on it.  Even more so, you like to talk about your characters shitting.  I don’t understand much of what it is you are trying to say in Ulysses, but when I do, it’s about defecation.  So I’ve at least got that going for me.  I now know the gastrointestinal tract of one of your main characters.

Although I have been reading your classic for a month, I have only gotten 62 pages into your 700+ page work.  And I am not one to give up on novels, unless they are complete trash (are you listening, Lauren Wisberger?).  But I cannot wrap my head around your work.  And I know you intentionally did this, being the cheeky bugger that you are.

If I gave it all up immediately, I’d lose my immortality. I’ve put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant, and that’s the only way of insuring one’s immortality.

I can easily picture you sitting at your writing desk laughing maniacally as you write your three well-thought-out sentences a day, that have nothing to do with the story, but can be interpreted a hundred different ways.  “Oh they will never get this!” you say, as you chuckle to yourself.  This is unacceptable.  Why would you want to write a novel that nobody understands anyway?  I guess you are right, it does make it immortal.  But it also makes it painful.  With every sentence I read, I feel bits of my soul slowly breaking away.  Your last words when you died were, “Does nobody understand?”  You must have been talking about Ulysses and then began kicking yourself in the dying head for not making it clearer.

But I will not give up.  I am frustrated to hell and don’t want anything to do with you now.  But you and I, James, are just going to go on a small break.  I am going to see other people — Toni Morrison for instance; she is next on my to-do list. — and you will remain sad and lonely until I decide to give you another chance.

Mr. Joyce, what you’ve written is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Sincerely yours,

allex

P.S.

I have read your steamy love letters to your wife, however, and maybe you should have given erotica a shot.  You would definitely be giving E.L. James a run for her money.  And she, at least, doesn’t deserve to be immortalized in literary fame.

The Color Purple or It Gets Better… Eventually

#5 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
Published:
1982
Reasons For Being Banned/Challenged:
Challenged in an Oakland, California high school honor class (1984) due to “sexual and social explicitness” and its “troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history and human sexuality.”
My Rating: Two long-lost sisters finally reunited

Sorry everyone foe the long wait in posts.  For the past week, I have been traveling around Ireland and ironically, there are plenty of sheep but no wifi hotspots.

The Color Purple was a book I had never read before.  I knew of it but I had no idea what exactly it was about.  But holy jesus, I was not prepared for what I had gotten into.  Within the first few flips on my kindle, Celie, our narrator and heroine, was being raped by her father.

Thanks for the heads up, Alice.  There is nothing I wanted to start my commute with than a fourteen-year-old describing her father raping her.  It’s waaaay too early for me to handle this subject matter.  Can’t I at least get a cup of coffee in me first?

Anyway, when I got past all of that,  I did appreciate the fact that The Color Purple is a really fast-paced book.  Because of this, within a few pages, Celie was away from one asshole man and forced to marry another one.  But she does mention that he had two children from her father and he took them and got rid of them after they were born.  Celie hates men.  Really hates men.  Like cut off a dude’s penis and throw it into a field hates men.  And that is made evident with her disinterest in even mentioning who her new husband’s name is.

Mr. ___, as it is stated in the book, was sweet on Celie’s younger sister Nettie.  But her father wouldn’t allow her to marry him because of her age, so instead he gave him Celie.  And because Celie doesn’t have a say in the matter, it happens.

And if her father isn’t bad enough, Mr. ___ is worse.  He beats the living crap out of her, and his kids are tiny assholes.  When Celie first married Mr. ___ — because his first wife was murdered by her lover — she was smacked in the head with a brick by his older son.  Happy housewarming!  Here’s a brick to the face!

And now she has to raise those shitsnacks like her own.  But one day when she goes into town she sees her daughter with another woman.  The entire time, she thought her daughter was dead, but instead, she is being raised by another woman who is a missionary.  Knowing her daughter is fine, she can go back to her terrible life.

But her sister does come to visit her, and gets hit on by Mr. ___ the entire time she is there.  When she tells him that there is no chance in them getting together, he tells Nettie that she is never allowed to visit Celie again.  When Nettie tells Celie this, she also tells her that she will write to her every day until her death.  But Celie doesn’t hear from Nettie again.

The only problem I had with this book was that there were too many characters.  Cellie introduces us to Mr. ___’s son, Harpo who marries Sophie, but then gets arrested, causing Harpo to start dating Squeak, whose real name is Mary Agnes.  But Mr. ___ also has Shug, his girl on the side that he has loved for forever.  And one night, Mr. ___ brings Shug to their home to be nursed back to health by Celie.  And after a while, Celie and Shug becomes friends and then fall in love.

Yes, Edward Cullen, I am confused.  I can’t keep all of these characters together.  And this isn’t even including the white people Sophie has to work for to get out of jail, Nettie’s entire backstory of what she was doing  the entire time she was supposed to be writing to Celie and the people she met.  Nettie actually ran off to the woman who is raising Celie’s daughter — and also her son — and asked if she could be their nanny.  She then goes off and becomes a missionary with them to England and Africa.  And then there are all of the people in Africa that mean something to Nettie.

While Celie and Shug are becoming closer than ever, Mr. ___’s has been snaking Nettie’s letters the entire time.  And by the way, at this point, like 20 years have gone by.  When Celie finds out what Mr. ___ did, she almost Hulks out and kill Mr. ___.

So to keep her from killing her dickhead husband, Shug has the idea of letting Celie move into her new house in Tennessee.  While Shug and Celie are playing love nest, Celie also begins sewing pants and selling them from her store she now owns.  And how did she get it?  She found out that her father was not the man who was raping her.

Celie and Nettie’s real father owned a really nice shop that was serving both whites and blacks.  But the white customers were mad that he was becoming so successful that he was lynched.  After he died, their mother became unhinged and Celie’s I-thought-he-was-my-dad-but-he-was-really-my-stepdad swooped in and married her.  But in his will, their real father gave Celie and Nettie his store.

When Celie starts making tons of money on her pants design, Shug tells her that she has fallen in love with her 19 year old flautist — and she is like 50 at this point — and is going to try to date him.  Oh yeah, Shug is also a popular lounge singer.

So while Shug ditches Celie for a child, Celie and Mr. ___ become besties.  Who sit on each other’s porches and chat it up about what they loved about Shug.  It is weird that both husband and wife were dating the same woman and now can share love stories with each other.

After all of the shit that Celie dealt with for the past 30 yearsish, she then gets a telegram saying that her sister’s boat from Africa has sunk.

I am just an emotional wreck right now, Alice.  What else can go wrong?  NOTHING!  Because at the end, everyone comes back together and are all buddy-buddy.  Because Shug comes back!  And Nettie is alive!  With Celie’s children and new husband!  And so is Sophie!  And Mr. ___ and she are friends!

Thank god because I couldn’t take any more depressing news.  I really couldn’t cover everything that happened in this novel.  But in the end, it was vey good.  I would recommend it, mostly so you could actually follow the storyline.

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

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To Kill a Mockingbird, or just one giant Boo Radley appreciation post

#4 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Published: 1960
Reasons For Being Banned/Challenged:  
This novel has been repeatedly challenged and banned in numerous states on the grounds that it “contains profanity and racial slurs.”
My Rating: 1 misunderstood town enigma

I have read this book three times now, and each time I do I fall more and more in love with it. I love this book. I love everything about it. I love Scout’s tomboy antics and childish yet truth-telling voice, Jem’s growing up and turning into the man his father is, Calpurnia’s wisdom, Miss Maudie’s acceptance of all people, and Atticus.  But most importantly, I love Boo Radley.

One of the two mockingbirds in Lee’s masterpiece, Boo Radley is the J.D. Salinger of the literary world.  A misunderstood recluse who hides behind dark shadows and town folklore, Boo Radley’s innocence was snuffed out too early by an abusive father.  But Jem and Dill are so adamant about understanding his questionable background that they do whatever they can to try and will him out of his home.  They put notes of fishing hooks, try and look through his window, and even create a game of reenacting his life.  If anything sticks in my mind from reading To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s that scene of Boo Radley allegedly cutting up newspaper clippings, suddenly stabbing his father with the scissors, whipping them out again, and continuing to cut clippings.

Although everything everyone says about Boo Radley is in fact a lie, there is just something so captivating about him.  You can understand why Jem and Dill are so enthralled by him.  The scissors story, his fingers being stained red from eating squirrels and cats, and flowers frost overnight because Boo Radley breathed on them. Every time his name is on the page, it jumps out at you, and you just can’t wait to get there and find out what is being said.

Throughout the novel, we come to grow and love Boo Radley just as much as he grows to care for Jem and Scout. His constant surveillance over the Finch children has not only helped  them once or twice, but he has also saved their lives from the biggest asshole ever known to anyone, aka, Bob Ewell.  (I feel that I should do a Ranking the Assholes of Literature post and look into every character I have ever called one.  Because it seems that I am always calling someone an asshole in these posts)

Bob Ewell is the man who angers the crap out of me and makes Heathcliff and Tom Buchanan look like ant bullies in comparison.  Harper Lee creates Robert E Lee Ewell as the personification of the darkness of the South in the 1930s with his ignorance, poverty, squalor, and hate-filled racial prejudice. Bob Ewell’s knowing wrongful accusation of Tom Robinson ruins lives and threatens the wellbeing of others.  But what makes Ewell so awful is that he is so real.  There are still Bob Ewells in this world, but with shifting prejudices.

But then there is Atticus Finch.  Atticus is one of the most amazing characters ever created.  This year, Out Of Print Clothing is doing a Book Madness bracket of Heroes vs Villains.  And although some people are blabbering on the championship match being Harry Potter vs Voldermort, I know in my heart of hearts that if Atticus Finch does not win then I am ashamed to be a book enthusiast.  Because Atticus Finch is a hero among men.  And just like Ewell, Atticus is capable of existing.  A part of him can be in anyone; we all have the ability to be Atticus Finch.

What really affected me when reading To Kill a Mockingbird was not Atticus’ closing statement, but his walking out of the courtroom afterwards.  There was nothing left for Atticus to do.  He had given his everything in helping Tom Robinson.  There was no way that Robinson was guilty.  The deck was completely stacked against Ewell’s case.  But there was still something going against Robinson.  One. Little. Thing. The fact that he was black and Ewell was white.  Bob may have been trash, but he was white trash.  Which was still good enough to have Robinson convicted.  And when Atticus left that courtroom, he was respected for what he had tried to accomplish.

I believe that To Kill a Mockingbird is a book that should be required to be read by all. Harper Lee’s classic teaches you that you can never understand someone unless you crawl in their skin and walk around in it.  And I truly believe that Atticus — as well as Boo Radley — is one of the greatest creations in all of classic literature.  The fact that this novel is continuously challenged and banned due to the language is completely ridiculous.  Honing in on the language used in a novel about prejudice in the 1930s deep South is like calling the Civil War of the United States the War of Northern Aggression, or firing teachers from public schools for teaching evolution.  It’s trying to hide aspects of history that one does not agree with or understand.  To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most beautiful books in American literature and I thank Harper Lee for her masterpiece.

Your father’s right,” [Miss Maudie] said. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy […] they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

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The Grapes of Wrath Part II: What the What?

#3 The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Published:
1939
More Reasons For Being Banned/Challenged: 
It was challenged in Greenville, South Carolina schools (1991) because the book uses the name of God and Jesus in a “vain and profane manner, along with inappropriate sexual references.”
My Rating: ¢20 pay for a ¢30 job

Last post, I had read the first 250 pages of The Grapes of Wrath and things didn’t go well.  Reading 250 pages of snoozefest, I was not looking forward to what was ahead of me. And good god.  I feel like I should have won a medal, or gotten a cookie or something for finishing it.  Because it’s a whopper.  And first thing’s first, I have decided to rename John Steinbeck as Debbie Downer.

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The Joads had finally made it to California, and no one knew what their future held.  Right when the Joads crossed into California, they stop by the Colorado River, cool off, and run into more people heading back east with horror stories of what California actually has to offer.  Ma is the first to experience someone calling her an “Okie” and it really brings everyone down.  The guy tells them they have to leave soon, and they’re all, “Yeah, you got it, we’re going.”  But Noah Joad has such a wonderful time on the riverside that he decided that he is going to live there instead, completely abandoning the family.

So let’s get a quick tally of the Joads:
Granpa Joad
 stroked out
Granma Joad
Pa Joad
Ma Joad
Uncle John Joad
Noah Joad turns into Huck Finn and runs away
Tom Joad
Rose of Sharon Joad-Rivers
Connie Rivers
Al Joad
Ruthie and Winfield Joad
Preacher Casey

When they get into town, the cops stop them at a checkpoint.  Ma tells the men that they don’t have time to waste, because Granma is very, very sick.  One of the cops shine a light on her, and is all, “Eww, gross.  Yeah, go ahead.”  After driving for a couple hours, they stop for a break.  That’s when Ma breaks it to them that Granma had been dead long before the checkpoint.  But to make sure the cops allowed them to cross, Ma had lied down and slept with Granma’s body.  For like, hours.

I will say that Ma Joad is by far, the most amazing character in this book.  Her husband has lost everything, and has no idea what to do with himself now.  Her brother-in-law is a drunk who is incapable of anything, and her pregnant daughter is whining every ten minutes about her pregnancy.  But Ma Joad is like, “Suck it up, errbody.  We have nothing left behind us, so we have to move forward.”  She is constantly kicking the men’s asses in gear, and doing her damnedest to keep the family together.  Hell.  Yes.  Ma.  Joad.

They get into a Hooverville and all I can say is that it’s bleak.  People are starving and dirty, they can’t find work anywhere, and Ma Joad is trying to make stew while children of the corn surround her, begging for food.  And then, at one point, a cop looking for workers comes in and tries hustling them.  One guy starts a bit of a tussle and Tom tries to calm it down, but instead he trips the cop and clobbers him with his billy club.  Yes, Tom Joad who a) just got out of prison for killing a guy and then b) left Oklahoma which is breaking his parole.  That guy decided to get in a fight.  Casey takes the fall for him, and tells Tom and Al to go hide by the water until the cops leave.  As Al and Tom are laying low by the river, they witness Connie running away from the camp.

Rose of Sharon is in the car/hut/trailer/whatever it is they sleep in and talking to her mom about how Connie is going to go to school, and learn how to fix radios, and they are going to have a wonderful life together.  But when Tom and Al come back and tell her that he ran away from her faster than a frat boy with a peen that burns, she becomes even more of a whiney little girl than she already was.

Granpa Joad stroked out
Granma Joad hallucinates to death next to sleeping Ma
Pa Joad
Ma Joad
Uncle John Joad
Noah Joad turns into Huck Finn and runs away
Tom Joad
Rose of Sharon Joad-Rivers
Connie Rivers pussies out
Al Joad
Ruthie and Winfield Joad
Preacher Casey

Continue Reading

The Grapes of Wrath Part I: Oregon Trail without the Dysentery

#3 The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Published:
1939
Reasons For Being Banned/Challenged:
Banned by the St. Louis, Missouri public library (1939) on the grounds that “vulgar words” were used.  The library ordered three copies to be burned.  It has also been challenged for its portrayals of California farmers, the poor and the working class.
My Rating: 12 Joads a Moving

For The Grapes of Wrath — and any other larger books I’ll be reading — I will break up blog posts.  So here is Part I, the first 250 pages of The Grapes of Wrath.

I have never read John Steinbeck before.  I know, it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.  For the summer of my sophomore year of high school, I was supposed to read East of Eden, but I knew that I would be moving from Connecticut to Illinois.  Thus meaning I would start at a new school, and not have to read it.  But I did try.  I was at my Uconn basketball camp with Geno Auriemma,  sitting on my bunk bed, I read the first page, understood nothing, and tossed it aside for the rest of the camp.

 But this is fun: on April 14, The Grapes of Wrath is celebrating its 75th anniversary!  NPR is even doing a bit of a social media book club with Monkey See for anyone and everyone who wants to read it too.  But that is neither here nor there.  I am here to talk about what I have read so far.  And so far, I can make the claim that the first half of The Grapes of Wrath is, drum roll please…

Really, really slow.

Okay, I went into reading this book totally blind.  I didn’t know what it was about, how long it really was, anything.  Even the book I have can’t tell me what it’s about.  (The copy I have from the library decided to place a big, white sticker on the middle of the back cover, blocking the summary of the book because, REASONS.)  And in case you don’t know, it’s about the Joad family from Oklahoma during the end of the 1930s.  For you non history buffs, this was toward the end of a massive drought that, combined with the Great Depression, left a huge chunk of Americans with no home, work, or food.  So the Joads — as well as everyone else in the Great Plains — pack up and move to Cali; the land of milk and honey.

While reading, I found out that Steinbeck broke up his 30 chapters in 3 sections.  The first 10 chapters are about the Joad clan still living in Oklahoma, getting ready to go to California.  The second 10 are about their actual traveling to California, Oregon Trail style. And the last are of them actually in California.

Steinbeck also does this thing where every other chapter is poetic, and literary, and deep, and full of imagery, and just so boring.  I feel like I am going to be bombarded by Steinbeck fans telling me how I wouldn’t know a literary genius if he slapped me in the face poetically with his words.  But I just hate those chapters.  I understand their purpose; I just don’t care.  They’re supposed to juxtapose the Joad family’s experience with the fact that this was happening to everyone.  Steinbeck is able to discuss the effect the Dust Bowl and the Depression had on a large population of people, as well as familiarize the reader with one particular family’s struggles.

And what a family Steinbeck chose.  There are so many Joads.  Joads everywhere.  Here’s a Joad, there’s a Joad, everywhere a Joad, Joad. We have: Granpa Joad, the crazy old man who is running around swearing, drinking, and raising hell; Granma Joad, his wife who shot a shotgun at him once because he was disrespectful towards her;  Pa Joad, who constantly blames himself for Noah’s physical and even mental slowness; Ma Joad, the voice of reason and moral compass; Uncle John Joad, Pa’s older brother who is the strong and silent one.

There’s also Noah Joad, the eldest son who is kind of deformed because when Ma was giving birth to him, Pa panicked and started pulling and twisting his body, trying to get him out (Note to self, NEVER have Pa Joad try and deliver my children); Tom Joad, the second eldest son who just got out of jail for killing a guy — in self defence; Rose of Sharon Joad-Rivers, the oldest daughter who just got married to a guy named Connie and is pregnant; Connie Rivers, who is not really a Joad, but married into the family so he counts.

Al Joad is the mechanic of the family who went on a couple girl-chasing benders; Ruthie Joad is 12 and kind of ladylike, but not really; and finally, Winfield Joad, who is only ten, and a wild child that for the first 50 pages I thought was a girl because I kept reading his name as Weatherfield after reading  The Catcher in the Rye, and there were never any pronouns used for him.  It always just said “Ruthie and Winfield this,” or “Winfield and Ruthie that.”  He is, and I repeat, a boy.  Not a girl.  So yeah, there they all are. Got it?

There’s also Casey, the old preacher.  But he gave up preaching because he used to give his sermons and then take women behind the church and bang them in the grass and I guess he felt morally corrupt after that?  I mean, I guess that’s a good reason to give it up.  Anyway, now that the entire cast has been introduced, I can talk about the story a bit more.

Um, well, things are happening.  Tom gets paroled from prison on good behavior and bumps into Casey.  They both walk to Tom’s home to find it abandoned.  His family had to pick up and leave because the drought was making the land uncroppable.  So the banks who owned the land told the Joads to piss off so they could just knock everything down and plant cotton — even though it’s bad for the earth, I think?

Tom and Casey become buddies and walk to Uncle John’s.  They make it just a few days before the family leaves for California, and Casey is invited to come along with them.  He agrees to go, they then prepare by butchering some pigs for food for the trip.  Steinbeck goes step-by-step on how exactly one would slaughter and salt a pig and it is really graphic.  I mean, the pig slaughtering was the most interesting thing that happened.  I had to read about a stupid turtle trying to cross the road for a whole chapter and I was like, “Dear lord, kill me now.”  But the pig slaughtering was at least educational.

And then, when they’re about to go, Granpa is like, “Actually, no. Imma stay here, instead.”  The Joads are like in the car, ready to go.  It isn’t a minivan either.  It’s a jalopy with their entire lives on it, as well as 13 people!  That was the hardest thing for me to picture.  But Granpa decides that this is the perfect time to be a jerk.  So Ma decides to put Nyquil in his coffee and drugs him.  And he is pissed that they tricked him into going and pays them back by having a stroke and dying.

Yeah, that’ll teach them, gramps.  When they stop for the night, the Joads meet the Wilsons, a  husband and wife.  They see how sick Granpa is, allow him to sleep in their tent, and then he’s like, “Thanks, strangers.  I’m gonna die now.”  And then he just strokes out and dies.  What kind of thanks is that? Casey then says how Granpa and the land were one and how Granpa couldn’t leave his life behind.  What really bothers me with Steinbeck is that sometimes he puts some great symbolism in his work — like the interconnectedness of Granpa and the land — but then he goes and explains it.  Like, I get the symbolism, Steinbeck.  But you just ruined it by breaking it down for me.

The Wilsons’ car is broken, so Al and Tom fix it and then they hatch the plan to split all of their things together between the Joads and the Wilsons.  So now it’s a bit more comfortable and each car isn’t so crowded.  Everyone is happy, even though Granpa just died in their new friends’ tent, they had to bury him, and now Granma is acting all kookie and weird.   YAY, ROAD TRIPS!

Now, they are meeting people along the journey and some of them aren’t heading west, but leaving CaliforniaApparently, California isn’t as sweet as everyone says it is.  Ooooh, drama!  And the Joads are like, OMG, what are we gonna do if we can’t find jobs? and everyone is just bubbling over in antici…. ….pation.

And that’s how far I’ve gotten in The Grapes of Wrath.  TUNE IN NEXT TIME!  Will I be able to make it through another 250 pages?  Will there be any real action?  How are they all fitting in that small car?!  WAIT AND SEE!

How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?

Want to read along with me?
Check out the Banned Books Challenge page to see my progress!