In Dubious Battle

Friday, October 24, 2014

In Dubious Battle
by John Steinbeck
In my experience there are two kinds of Steinbeck novels. There are the character-driven stories that are often entertaining (think Cannery Row) and there are the moral tragedies where big lessons are learned (think Grapes of Wrath and The Pearl.) This definitely falls into the latter category. Two men join a group of apple pickers in the 1930s with the goal of getting them to strike for better wages.
Mac and Jim are the men behind the cause, recruiting the local leader, London, to gain the trust of the workers. Jim is new to the world of unions, but not to injustice. He is naive at first, but grows stronger as he focuses on his purpose. The battle escalates and the belief that the men perpetuate is that the ends justifies the means, no matter who is hurt along the way. The men, who are actually fighting for the cause, are often the manipulated pawns of bigger men with bigger goals. The character of the Doctor gave some interesting perspective to the motivation behind Mac’s work.
It's good; the writing is crisp and vivid. But I feel like it's a precursor to greater work. The partnership and friendship that grows between Jim and Mac is better personified between George and Lennie in "Of Mice and Men." The strike for higher wages and the struggle for a better life for the workers are better demonstrated in "The Grapes of Wrath." In Dubious Battle is a good story and a tragic one, but it didn't dig quite as deep for me.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s not my favorite Steinbeck, but he’s written so many that I love. As with his other work this story gives a voice to an often overlooked group of people and I think it would have been particularly powerful during the time in which it was originally released.
“There’s no better way to make men part of a movement than to have them give something to it."
“It seems to me that a man has engaged in a blind and fearful struggle out of a past he can’t remember, into a future he can’t foresee nor understand. And man has met and defeated every obstacle, every enemy except one. He cannot win over himself.”


Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Silkworm
by Robert Galbraith
Cormoran Strike is back with his assistant Robin, searching for a missing author of a controversial book. I read this at a similar time as Broken Harbor and I think it suffered a bit in comparison. Cormoran is a great character. He's a gruff, lumbering man, but his heart is big and his intimidating bulk can be deceptive for those who underestimate a sharp intelligence. In so many ways Strike has been broken, through his ex fiancĂ©, the war, his famous fathers neglect, etc. but his vulnerabilities are well hidden from the general public. 
I like that we are getting to know his history a little better as the series progresses. The writing can be overly descriptive and indulgent at times and I think for that reason it works better as an audiobook. Strike's assistant Robin had a chance to prove herself a bit more in this book. The tense relationship between her boss and fiancé hasn't improved, but she's taking a stance for what she wants of her career.
The plot of this one wasn't as strong in my opinion. It's a decent mystery, but it took a turn into some unnecessarily morbid and nasty areas. It was relevant to the characters lives, but it didn't need to be in there, nor to be taken quite as far in my opinion. It felt like Rowling was just trying to prove that she could write something graphic and not just a Harry Potter style content. I felt like she had already proven her skill as a mystery writer with “The Cuckoo's Calling” so that element in this book was completely unneeded. 
BOTTOM LINE: I like both Cormoran and Robin as characters and so I'll still plan on reading the next book in the series. But if it sinks into the same level of grossness I will probably stop there. I'm hoping this one's content had more to do with this particular case with the direction of the series has a whole.
*Read as part of the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

Wordless Wednesday: Naval Memorial

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Navy Memorial in D.C. 
More Wordless Wednesday here.
Photo by moi.