In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must me a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you and I must choose between two courses of thought. or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world. We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world is.” (this book is turning a page in my life)
Glad you posted this, Amanda. How’s North Carolina? :)
Yes. One of my favorite books.
I got into a long, heated argument about this book with a girl foolish girl at a barbeque. She was saying she admired but didn’t like (like = approve of) East of Eden because she thought Steinbeck had an “unredemptive,” “cynical,” and “hopeless” view of the world. I, of course, started talking about theintentionalfallacy and how it really couldn’t matter less what Steinbeck thought of the world; nor, really, what he thought of East of Eden. I said we should be concerned with the work in and of itself and on its own terms. She said that was a selfish way to think of a book (i.e. to be more concerned with my relation to the art/work than with the artist’s/author’s relation to the art/work).
But, so, and, as a creative person I both make my own art/work and consume other people’s art/work. When making things, I’m totally and exhaustively concerned with my relation to the work as author. When consuming I’m totally and (almost) exhaustively concerned with, again, my relation to the work over the author’s relation to the work. I assume (or at least hope) that other people viewing my work don’t care what I was thinking when I made it.
And of course this is selfish. But I don’t think art/work can be made nor consumed as anything other than a single self/author. This doesn’t rule out artistic collaboration nor a cultural/communal appreciation and understanding of works of art. But this creative collaboration or communal consumption of art is still (and only, and necessarily) a community insofar as it is made of individuals creating or consuming on their own, in parallel or series, with other selves.
As a final dig note, can anyone read the above quoted excerpt and think that East of Eden, on its own terms, is either unredemptive, cynical, or hopeless?