Steinbeck: Makes a Good Book and a Good Sandwich

As promised, my two-person book club met up at the Bourgeois Pig last week for some serious Steinbeck dissection.

East of Eden Book and Sandwich


Ms. Kasey and I knew we had truly chosen the right locale for our meeting when we found an "East of Eden" sandwich on the menu board. We of course had to order one (as seen above) and I nabbed a chicken sandwich to satiate any meat-eating needs for the evening. Though the "Eden" sandwich was quite the veggi delight with avocados, mushroom that tasted like chicken and lots of leafy greens.

We actually discussed the book for at least a half and hour to 45 minutes, not bad for book-club beginners, before we descended into letting the brunette with the laptop at the next table learn much too much about our personal lives.

As for the book?

I love - love - Steinbeck. In high school and college I had a tiny Mitsubishi pickup truck I named Rocinante in honor of Steinbeck's truck from Travels with Charley, a truck that my parents took a special trip to Salinas to so I could see the real thing. My Rocinante is currently living his third incarnation with some family friends on Mt. Veeder, having survived several trips to Oregon and a run-in with some overnight hit-and-runners in Santa Cruz.

I grew up in the Bay Area, so the worlds of Steinbeck's novels are something familiar and dear to me. His writing is honest and he is fair man who gives the bum and rich man equal dignity, with perhaps more dignity to the bum.

My two favorite Steinbeck works are the aforementioned Travels with Charley and East of Eden. Charley is a love letter to America - a kind-hearted real-life roadtrip filled with the beauty of the America landscape and the kindness of strangers. 

Eden dances on the boundary of fiction and non-fiction: the Trasks and the Hamiltons are real people, with a very young Steinbeck even making an appearance. But beyond these family trees, what is really true?

Invented or not, the epic of these families is both touching and painful.  Most of our discussion on Thursday focused on the familial relationships: sibling rivalries, the love of between parent and child - how our own lives intersect and different from the Hamiltons and the Trasks. Intersections, I'm sure, even the brunette with the laptop would understand.

PS: We're currently looking for our next book selection: preferably something classic, wintery and shorter than Eden. If I hadn't just read Call of the Wild it would have been perfect. I'm thinking maybe Ethan Frome? I'd love to hear any suggestions!


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Bus Book, Bed Book, Book Club

Sometime back in the spring I decided that I no longer read enough. I also decided that I was wasting my time on public transit with the Red Eye and gave it up for Lent to be replaced by real books. Resolved, I made my way over to the wonderful Harold Washington Library, picked up the Interpreter of Maladies and started a book reading frenzy. Since then, I've rarely been without at least two books checked out - a bed book and a bus book. One for home and one for my hour and a half of daily commute.

About the same time, a friend urned me to the website Goodreads, where I've been keeping track of and reviewing everything I read. Being one of those people who takes joy in lists, it's right up my alley. I'm a little behind on my reviews right now, but I highly recommend the site.

East of Eden

The bus book (currently East of Eden) is largely determined by weight. If it's too heavy it stays home. Books in fragile condition also miss the cut, but mostly, whichever book I want to get through first is the bus book - since it gets solid dedicated time 5 days a week.

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

The bed book (currently Grace Paley's Enormous Changes at the Last Minute) usually takes me twice as long to get through as the bus book. Except for the Harry Potters I've been stealing from my now husband, which take two days. I also try to to mix it up so I'm reading one fiction and one non-fiction, or at least two different styles. I'm becoming increasingly interesting in pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing, so I'm self-educating in way.

Lastly, one of the books is now a book club. A few weeks before I left for the wedding, my friend Kasey and I met up at an ridiculously cute and francophiliac cafe, The Bourgeois Pig , prior to catching a comped performance of "An Intimate Evening with Lynda Carter." Just as we were about to leave, a small group of twenty-somethings started gathering for a book club. Kasey and I both looked at them wistfully and decided that we too should have a book club and meet in this charming locale to discuss.

Well, she was reading East of Eden and I had just brought my copy back from California, so it seemed a logical first choice - any Oprah book club connections aside. (Speaking of which, half the time her "selections" just seem like things I was required to read in high school -- Night, East of Eden, Anna Karenina, Sound and the Fury -- really? I'm so glad you discovered these for me Oprah, I never would have heard of them without you. )

Anyway, Kasey and I are both about halfway through the book now, so if anyone is a speedy reader, they're welcome to join in. I'm guessing we'll meet up mid-to-late November. After which, I hope this gets to be a reoccurring thing.

Speaking of Kasey, tonight was the second annual "William Shatner" apple pie baking fest -- this time with furniture! Photos and tasty pie recipe to come soon.

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