The Book(s) of Love No. 8: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

dean

“A kind of light spread out from her. And everything changed color. And the world opened out. And a day was good to awaken to. And there were no limits to anything. And the people of the world were good and handsome. And I was not afraid any more.” 

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Apologies if you read this in high school, and hated it.  I don’t like saying this, but… you, or your younger self, might be wrong.  Even if you have read it and can’t stand to do it again, please please go watch the movie version with James Dean, if only because James Dean.  Anyway, if you’re as fascinated by female psychopaths and biblical symbolism as I am, you will probably love this book.  It’s Steinbeck, so I’m not saying it’s unproblematic, but I think it’s a much less melodramatic and well-thought-out novel than Grapes of Wrath.  Can a black heart be inherited?  Can a good one?  Or is it all nurture?  And, what happens when the people we love turn out to be, well, super evil?  Read, and find out!  This is a hefty tome, though, so may I suggest the e-reader version, for supreme portability?

The Book(s) of Love No. 7: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

REBECCA“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.”

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This book, and the excellent movie version by Alfred Hitchcock, starts out like every girl’s dream (and probably some boys’ dreams too!): you’re on vacation in Monte Carlo (which, hell, is already a dream come true), and a handsome, wealthy man falls madly in love with you and proposes marriage before the trip ends.  He takes you back to his lush (if somewhat gothic and isolated) country house in England where, presumably, you’re going to live happily ever after.  Oh, but you presume wrong.  A) it turns out that your name isn’t Rebecca at all, that was the name of your new husband’s first wife, who is dead.  B) that dead wife’s super creepy,  super loyal maid is still employed by your husband as the housekeeper, and she hates you!  This sucks!  Also, C) you’re an orphan, so the only person you have to confide in is your new husband, whom you don’t actually know all that well and who starts acting weird almost as soon as you get home.  What the hell is going on here?  Even just talking about this story makes me want to go read the book or watch the movie again.  As the quote suggests, this story is particularly about passion in its many forms, and how it can be both a good thing and a bad one.

All the Things You Are

November 24, 1955
To Allen on his Second Birthday

You’re a quaint, little elf
Dancing on your pink toes,
A gay, smiling rascal
As everyone knows.

You’re a tiny magician
With tricks up your sleeve,
An imp and an angel,
Such spells as you weave!

You’re a funny, old farmer
Who swaggers and sways,
A shrewd, little diplomat
Planning angles and ways.

Like Comet and Cupid
You’re quick as a flash.
Little Punkin, the kitten
You’re there in a dash.

You’re a dear, little boy
Full of laughter and fun
So to-day – Happy Birthday!
Just one year plus one.

With love, “Gramma”

The eighth, and last, in a series of my great-grandma’s poems. This one was written for my uncle (name changed above).