It’s a cliché, (you can move directly to the quote) but there’s a fundamental difference between a writer and an artist of any other form. Writing, truly, is timeless. Take painting. The post-moderns changed the game by essentially changing what art means and how it is looked at. The photographers made the impressionists redundant and so on. Same with music, architecture, surgery – all the fields in which imagination and dexterity got together to make what we call talent are now being surrendered to technology. Do you remember a time when you used to buy music? I do. Create mixtapes for your girlfriend with ‘Nothings gonna change my love for you’ as song 1 on side A. And ‘Hello’ by Lionel Richie as song 1 on side B with utmost care. Now we don’t even curate play lists anymore let alone pay for music.

But the elusive thing called human nature, the subject of most writing, remains the same. And the only way to write is still… write. Which makes past comparable to present and let you shatter the illusion that humans are always evolving as a field. There’s this belief in most humans that tomorrow will be better than today – which implies today’s man is better than yesterday, not only in what he has created, but how he thinks, how he behaves. Reading the classics shatters this myth like no other. Austen’s stories could be based in modern India, couldn’t they be?

And who, my friend, got human nature better than Steinbeck. It was almost a crime that i discovered him so late.

Steinbeck. Dostoevsky. Wodehouse.

The holy trinity. I had a habit of highlighting with pencil in books the lines i liked. The habit is useless with this trio, it will leave your book in tatters.

Steinbeck had something wise and witty to say about everything. So next few posts are going to be about him on various topics.

I shall start with what else, but love.

In the famous letter to his son, he writes that now popular line which is the only timeless solace of unrequited love.

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His characters fall in love, indulge in the chase, get disappointed – but they do it with a dignity that borders on haughtiness. As if they know that love has a place but it is not the only place, that there are much worse disappointments than a broken love affair or unrequited love. They remind me of my wife sometimes, the way they are so matter-of-fact about relationships. Yet that leads to subtle and profound lines strewn across his books. You could scour his books from cover to cover yet not come across a superlative. Yet he is not dismissive of the power love can hold over a person.

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Note the curious use of the word ‘release him’. Generally the word is used for rejection, the oft quoted stupid advice – move on, which misses the basic understanding that there’s only so much in you that can be poured in another if you move on, something crystallises or hardens if you do which tastes bitter and becomes a part of you. But maybe acceptance of love has also the power to release a person, even if necessarily not reciprocation.

But an unrequited lover feels an exaggerated element of tragedy which only he sees and feels. Sometimes it makes him feel heroic and stoic. Steinbeck destroys that illusion too.

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Is there a more lyrical way of saying No one gives a fuck?

 

 

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