Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road:

Great Literature Lives On

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Today would have been John Steinbeck”s 112 birthday so Google made him a doodle! That has to mean something!  Oh yeah, it means Steinbeck left a mark on the minds of those who are familiar with his work.  The big question is, do we understand what this mark means?

            We read a lot of books in grade school that made us question why such literature was “acclaimed.” Grapes of Wrath (1939) dedicates an early chapter to a turtle crossing the road.  A turtle crossing the road! Whether you’re in 8th grade or 12th grade, under average or above average intelligence, you can’t help but wonder “is this guy laughing at us, or is this deep?”

Some resorted to Cliff Notes to make sense of the metaphors and to hear what is being said between the lines.  Other didn’t read one page of the actual book and relied only on Cliff Notes.  Whatever way you got to the end, one thing was clear: those books were literally ahead of our time. (no pun intended)

Was it too anxious on the school”s part to assign such books to immature, under developed, unwilling minds?  In grade school, there”s a pressure to go with the flow.  If a majority of your classmates think the book is “stupid,” or they just don”t get it, it”s likely that we pretend not to get it or we go into the book expecting it to be a waste of time. Once we graduate, it’s like this veil has been lifted!  After throwing your cap in the air, those books are worth re-reading.

Adapting books to film has become a trend.  Is it because more and more Americans have a collapsing attention span?  We’re online casino dgfev so adapted to screens and scrolling that the thought of touching a paper page is becoming a distant thought.  Whatever the reason, an adaptation still leaves some people wanting to read the book first.  Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 remake of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby (1925), led to a spike in book sales (e-books and paper).  The film, rated PG-13, was full of flashing lights, pumping music (from modern artists like Jay-Z), and mesmerizing set design.

The millennium generation was one of many to read the classic in high school so it’s no surprise that we picked up the book once more before seeing the new film adaptation.  And this time it made so much more sense!  Is it because we weren’t asked to define every line, give meaning to each color, and identify all the metaphors in every chapter?  Could it be because we are different than the version of us who read the classic 10 years ago?  Or is it because there is such hype that this film would be a box office hit, and the novel is a classic, that we go into it expecting greatness?

Next month, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (1937) will return to Broadway, starring James Franco (This is the End) and Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids).  It’s not the same buzz as a film adaptation, but being back on stage after 40 years says something.  It says that the stories don’t change, but they are always reaching more people and in a new way each time.  Stories are timeless, in any form, and whether they are in a book, on a stage, or on screen, they are inanimate objects, a moment in time that cannot change.  Instead, the viewers are the ones who change.  So while the story may be the same that it was when read in a stuffy English classroom, we read a new message all these years later because we have changed.

Happy Birthday, John Steinbeck. Thanks for the memories!