This is a brief post and reminder: John Steinbeck is utterly amazing.  I finished East of Eden at 11 PM this evening after a five-hour binge, and I’m still reeling.  The book is so well crafted, so rich, so completely thought out.  Steinbeck doesn’t push the stylistic envelope with Eden; he uses intercalary chapters as a tool, but they’re never stream-of-conscience, and seem less self-conscious than some of his other work.  In Eden the parallel narrative simply moors his family history to the story line.  And he does this quietly, almost insignificantly.  Steinbeck gives the impression of writing substantially for his own gratification.  But he knows what he’s doing, and he’s ok with it.  Still, this and the nostalgia may take Eden down a notch in the eyes of critics.  Perhaps the greatest blow to Eden came before it was written, though.  For how, how is an author supposed to escape the shadow of his own “most discussed book of the century”?  The Grapes of Wrath is better known, but I don’t know if it deserves greater notoriety.  To be sure it’s younger, wilder, more political.  Comparisons with Grapes of Wrath are inevitable, but Eden is a much older book, written by a much older man – a man whose concern is communication rather than incitation, and whose communication bears the weight of all his years.  I’m left with the impression that Steinbeck wished Eden to be his greatest work.  I don’t know if it is.  But the passion is such, the wisdom is such that, in the end, I don’t care.  I’m just glad I got to hold them.