I’ve always associated Steinbeck with overly descriptive, boring storytelling, but having not read anything by him, that opinion was formed from listening to people bitch about reading him in high school. I know that most teenagers will hate any book their teachers assign them, no matter its merit, so I feel a bit stupid for having essentially listened to high school students over the Nobel prize committee.
The central characters are George Milton, a quick-witted man, and Lennie Small, a large mentally disabled man (and possibly the original huge guy to be ironically named Small?). They’re close friends, and George acts as Lennie’s guardian. They’re arriving at new ranch job at the beginning of the book, having been forced to flee their last job due to a misunderstanding with Lennie, and the story follows them as they spend their time at the ranch dreaming of a better life.
Steinbeck really doesn’t pull any punches when describing the life of a migrant worker during the Great Depression. Life is miserable and lonely and harsh, and every character in the book is desperate for companionship. Most stories seem to either glorify loneliness or gloss over it completely, but it’s a main theme throughout this. It’s examined so well, and through so many different characters’ eyes, that you feel the urge to go have a drink in a crowded pub after you’re finished.
The way Steinbeck describes the setting and the characters really bring everything to life, and this was enhanced even more by Mark Hammer’s great narration. I was a little sad to see that he hasn’t narrated the rest of Steinbeck’s books, as he did such a great job on this one.
I was struck with a stunning revelation while reading this, and I realise this is likely old news for everyone else, but I finally understand all of those Looney Tunes references!