Thursday 29 August 2013

Steinbeck's truck: once more on reading and living

Not long ago I spoke with a learned gentleman about the fiction of John Steinbeck. He told me that he had first read The Grapes of Wrath nearly forty years ago. Decades later, whenever he thinks of that book, what he remembers most is the part where Tom Joad gets a ride with the truck driver. "It's astounding," he told me, shaking his head in solemn amazement. "It's not the words or even the characters that I remember so clearly after all these years. It's the sound of the truck that I remember and that I have always loved." And again he shook his head, as if not quite able to believe what he was saying.

Reading is living. Words become flesh. That is what the olives teach, and it is what John Steinbeck's truck will teach us too if we only have ears to hear.

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