Tuesday, November 30, 2010

earthbound but aspiring

It seems like a lot of people I know have their first run-in with Mr. John Steinbeck in a high school literature class, usually by way of The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men, sometimes The Pearl, or if they're lucky, Cannery Row. I must've been enrolled in the dumb kid high school English classes because my first Steinbeck encounter didn't occur till age 24. I'm glad of this though, because I wonder if I would have appreciated or understood him in high school (in other words, I was appropriately placed in those dumb kid English classes).

This is probably my favorite photo of Steinbeck. There's just something about it that says, "I'm John Steinbeck, what the #@%$ are you gonna do about it?" Incidentally, if anyone can find a hi-res version or a poster/print of this photo I'll be your best friend.

For the past year and a half or so I've been searching... though for what I've never been quite sure. I've just had this urge to create something original, to share something unique. I try to not make a habit of comparing myself to others, but in some cases with the right motivation, it's not such a bad thing. So in my vague search for fulfillment I considered my hobbies, my talents, things I enjoy doing -- specifically music, writing, and photography -- to find out what sets me apart from my friends, family and peers. I didn't feel that I had to be the best at any one of those things, but I did feel like my natural abilities in each of those areas were dim at best when compared to certain friends. While I enjoy those aforementioned pursuits and I will continue doing them, I don't necessarily feel like I have something unique and significant to offer therein.

A few weeks ago I feel like I identified a trait that sets me apart from my friends and many of my peers -- something that only I bring to the table: my love of John Steinbeck. When you love something, you have a hard time understanding why others don't love it as much as you do; when you love something, you want to share it with others. So the next step is logical: create a separate blog devoted to Mr. Steinbeck.

Now, I couldn't just create a blog about Steinbeck and blog here and there, willy-nilly about random Steinbeck thoughts and readings. So I decided on a structure and made myself a schedule. The plan, starting December 2010, is to read one work (novel or non-fiction) per month in the order in which they were published until I have read each work (which, according to schedule, won't be until November 2012). Throughout each month, I'll post my thoughts on the book I read, along with two to three other posts having to do with thoughts related to the book or to Steinbeck in general. (Click here for my reading schedule. I'm not expecting anyone to join my quest but it would be awesome if every now and then someone read a book or two concurrent to my schedule.)

Because I want to do this right, I don't have the blog up and running yet (and I have yet to read Steinbeck's first novel, Cup of Gold). I'm planning on having it up by January 1, 2011; sooner if I can manage.

Update, 2/14/2011: You can find this blog here: earthboundbutaspiring.com.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I owe you one, Harry

I remember it well. My senior year in high school. Ms. Tuzzino's mythology class. I sat in the front left corner of the classroom with my buddies, Jeff, Tyler, and Dave. OK, maybe I don't remember it as well as I thought because I don't remember how they got on the topic, but somehow Dave and Tyler started taking about Harry Potter. I was confused. I interrupted, "Wait, you guys read Harry Potter? My 12 year old brother reads that stuff."

They were two friends whose tastes and opinions I respected, so I was intrigued. I don't know if it was that night, but soon thereafter, I picked up my brother's copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I thought it was a good book, though I wasn't blown away, and I wasn't moved. But never had I been able to finish a book so quickly, and never had I been so engaged as a reader.

I picked up the second. By the third I was hooked. Forever. Reading the fourth was a milestone for me -- by my first reading, it was the longest book I had ever read, weighing in at 734 pages.

Only days away. Mere days.

Something magical happened after I read Harry Potter. I began devouring other books with the same passion. Prior to Harry, I had never considered myself much of a reader. Sure, I read here and there, but never with any consistency, taking months at a time to finish a single book. Through Harry Potter, I discovered that reading was not only enjoyable, but that it moved, inspired, and effected me in ways few things can.

So the least I can do is say thanks. Thank you, Harry and friends (and enemies) for so many great years, all seven of them. Thank you for helping me develop a love for reading, without which I would have missed out on so many great books that have influenced me so positively. Thank you for the movies too, which don't really compare to the books, but have nevertheless provided a way for my friends and me to grow closer as we celebrate you, the Boy Who Lived -- the boy who will always live on in my imagination and heart for years and years to come.