Monday, November 23, 1987

John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men published 50 years ago today

First posted 6/24/2020; last updated 7/6/2020.

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

First Publication: November 23, 1937

Category: tragic fiction/novella

Sales: ?

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

The New York Times called it “a thriller, a gripping tale…that you will not set down until it is finished. Steinbeck has touched the quick.” AZ

“Steinbeck based the novella on his own experiences working alongside migrant farm workers as a teenager in the 1910s…The title is taken from Robert Burns’ poem ‘To a Mouse,’ which reads: ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley.’ (The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry).” WK

Of Mice and Men “tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small, two displaced migrant ranch workers, who move from place to place in California in search of new job opportunities during the Great Depression in the United States.” WK “They are an unlikely pair: George is ‘small and quick and dark of face;’ Lennie, a man of tremendous size, has the mind of a young child. Yet they have formed a ‘family,’ clinging together in the face of loneliness and alienation.” AZ

They “have a plan: to own an acre of land and a shack they can call their own. When they land jobs on a ranch in the Salinas Valley, the fulfillment of their dream seems to be within their grasp. But even George cannot guard Lennie from the provocations of a flirtatious woman, nor predict the consequences of Lennie’s unswerving obedience to the things George taught him.” AZ

While “taught in many schools, Of Mice and Men has been a frequent target of censors for vulgarity and what some consider offensive and racist language; consequently, it appears on the American Library Association’s list of the Most Challenged Books of 21st Century.” WK

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Monday, November 16, 1987

Life 101

a short story

“Okay, class dismissed. See you back here in ten years to discuss your grade.”

So my wife finally left me - and took the kids. I spiraled downward into a stupor and lost my job.

“Then what happened?”

Well, I got a job at a car plant, but that only lasted three months. Then I was a waiter. Then a janitor, a cook, and then a security guard.

“What about your personal life?”

My relationships weren’t lasting any long than my jobs. Bosses were kicking me out of their offices; girls were kicking me out of their beds. Occasionally I even slept with this woman who was married to a real creep. I was convinced she was going to leave him.

“And did she?”

Of course not. But I left her. Not her so much, just that town. I couldn’t hold a job and finally got evicted from my apartment. My brother in Omaha said I could come live with him.

“How did that go?”

Fine, for awhile. I wasn’t finding a job, but I needed some time to take it easy. I was going to museums and libraries - and the occasional massage parlor. I was reading a lot and painting. I was also watching a lot of TV. Eventually it was just the TV - and the occasional massage parlor.

“How did your brother react?”

He finally kicked me out. He couldn’t take it anymore. Then my parents took me in. They insisted I go back to college and finish my degree. I could live there as long as I was doing that. I commuted thirty miles every day. I quit after three weeks.

“So then what?”

I begged an ex-girlfriend to take me back. I moved in with her and she supported me for awhile. She got her ass pinched at a truck stop for forty bucks a night and was fucking one of the regulars occasionally. We didn’t last long.

“Wow. Do you realize you have not succeeded at anything?”

So my parents keep telling me.

“Why do you think that is?”

If I get bored with something, I quit. I won’t do it if it doesn’t make me happy.

“So is it working?”


“Congratulations. A+.”

Sunday, November 1, 1987

There's More Than One Fish in the Jerkwater: Inspirations from a Fish Part Two

It is better to be alone than to roll your eyes. I can always write or listen to tapes as a substitute for companionship. One must enjoy his own company before he can enjoy anyone else’s.

Weekends can last forever. Of course, sometimes they last two days. It is better not to be alone than dry your eyes. Oooh! Starting to get a bit melancholy, aren’t we? Have no fear...

“Fear Is Never Boring”

I’m trying too hard to be creative.

Dave, get a haircut.

Hell, no, we won’t go...”

Well, I’ll be The Damned.

I would love to go back to Georgia on a college road trip with a half dozen friends. Two cars, signs in the windows, and a babe that looks like Justine Bateman.

God, I want that Rolling Stone.

Family Ties is on tonight.

Art class, art class. You blonde, you.

“It’s hard to be a man when there’s a girl in your head...”

Close, but no cigar. Cabiche? Oh, those New York gang stories and Kiss posters. And the paddle and potty pass. Stand! Can you believe that?

“Change, it doesn’t matter who you are...”

“Ch- ch- ch- changes...”

“I’m moving through some changes...”

“Don’t change a thing for me...”

“It’s getting late for scribbling and scratching on the paper. Something’s gonna give under this pressure. And the cracks are already beginning to show. It’s too late.”

Saturday, October 31, 1987

Key to Life

a short story from my junior year in college

I peered at the elderly gentleman as he left my coffee shop. With a gloved hand I fumbled in the pocket of my heavy coat for the keys to the front door. The coffee sloshed wildly about his cup, splashing over the rim and scalding his bare hand. He winced in pain.

The man wore a bedraggled jacket with a broken zipper. His thin, brown trousers were held up by suspenders. He wore an equally thin pair of brown shoes. I tugged my heavy coat a little tighter to my body to block out the harsh wind.

I locked the door to my shop and shoved the keys back in my pocket. I wrapped my scarf snuggly about my face and straightened my stocking cap. His bare face reddened from the cold.

I watched him peer into a nearby shop window and suspected he was looking for another place that was open that would let him in out of the cold. I imagined shop owners every evening being disturbed by his loitering and vagrancy as they shouted, “we’re closed!” I looked back at my own cafe.

“Sir?” I said. The old man turned slowly toward me, hesitant to accept that I was truly addressing him. I reached my hand back into my pocket and pulled out my keys and tossed them to the old man. “It’s yours.”

Monday, October 5, 1987

Cappy Hap

a short story written during my junior year in college

She sat on the brick steps of the cathedral-style building. Brick and tile and pillars. I strolled by on the sidewalk. Cracks and weeds and concrete. I wore an old fashioned pilot’s cap. She wore a lonely face. I looked stupid. She looked normal. But I was happy.

“Hey,” I shouted as I arrived at the mail box, “would you like to borrow my cap?”

She peered up, startled. “What?” she spat out. She looked close to tears.

I hopped up the first set of steps to where she was sitting. I pulled off my cap and handed it to her. She pushed it back toward me, shaking her head. “I really think you should try it on,” I insisted, but she still waved me away. I crammed the hat down on her head anyway. She stood up, prepared to pull off the hat and throw it at me and then a strange thing happened. Her arm halted halfway toward her head, fell back down to her side, and a smile came to her face.

“You’re weird,” she said.

“Thank you,” I responded.

Odd Little Snippets

"jerkwater droplets" written during my college junior year

Shakespearian Dream
Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away there lived a bug named Orville. He died.

Tossed Aside
I throw paper wads
To avoid
Damaging the glass

Umbrellas and Horseshoes
It was a rainy day. I was at the typewriter composing. That was all I could come up with.

I admired her painting in the studio one afternoon.

Migration, hibernation
Full moon burns yellow
Cris air licks naked branches
Wrapped in wool
We wade in leaves

Red Squishy Things
"The same heart beats in every human breast."

An Unfinished Poem Sparked by One Line Which Sounded Great But Then I Couldn't Come Up with Anything Else
Apartment hunting early.

Wednesday, September 30, 1987

Toni Morrison's Beloved is published

First posted 6/11/2020; updated 7/5/2020.


Toni Morrison

First Publication: September 1987

Category: novel/magic realism

Sales: ?

Accolades (click on badges to see full lists):

About the Book:

In 1974, Toni Morrison edited The Black Book, “a miscellaneous compilation of black history and culture.” WK Included in the book was a a reproduction of an 1856 newspaper article entitled ‘A Visit to the Slave Mother who Killed Her Child,’ originally published in the American Baptist. WK The story was about Margaret Garner, an African-American who escaped slavery in Kentucky by fleeing to Ohio, a free state, in January 1856. WK

As a result, Morrison crafted a “spellbinding novel” AZ which “transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby.” AZ It is a “tour de force of guilt, abandonment and revenge plays out against the background of pre-emancipation American life.” TG

The story’s protagonist, Sethe, “was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.” AZ

The book landed Morrison a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. In 1993, she won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The book was adapted into a movie starring Oprah Winfrey in 1998 In 2006, The New York Times named it “the best work of American fiction of the past twenty-five years.” LC

Resources and Related Links:

In July 2018, I became the organizer of the Classic Novels Book Club. Check out the Book Club tab here or Meetup for more information. This is our December 2019 book.