Tuesday, March 10, 2009

To Read or Not to Read?

That is the question that has been swirling around in my head for some time now. I began reading East of Eden several years ago; about 100 pages into it, I stopped. I picked it up again a year later and subsequently put it down again after I was about the same amount of pages into it. I decided to finish it once and for all last year. So I read. And I read. And then stopped after 200 pages.

I've never had such a difficult time finishing a book, especially when the story is so . . . well, to be perfectly honest . . . It's gripping. Steinbeck's characterizations are fantastic, as usual, and maybe even more so in this particular novel.

So why couldn't I finish the book? Why haven't I finished the book? Part of me hates to even bring it up because it's a book, for crying out loud. A book. If I wasn't an observant Christian, I might worship books because they're my favorite things in this world. That's why I was so confused with my behavior.

After my last attempt to complete the reading, though, it occurred to me that East of Eden's morality was in question for me. Although the story is fascinating, I began to wonder whether it was also pornographic. "Is this the kind of book I should not read?" I wondered. "Is this why I haven't been able to finish it?"

This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of readers, but again, I love books and literature and stories and well-written prose. I respect Brooks's and Lexi's aesthetic opinions and am interested in what they're interested in, and they were interested in East of Eden. They both highly recommended it. Oprah did, too. Surely, the book isn't that bad.

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. I don't necessarily want to get into the details of that particular story. I mainly wanted to address the notion of not reading a book based on moral sensibilities. Most of the time, I think it's ridiculous when I hear about people banning books. So when I felt like perhaps I shouldn't finish reading the book, it was an odd feeling. I still don't know if I'll finish it or not, but I wondered, readers, whether you have ever been in this predicament. There have been books I'd never read again because I thought they were so bad, but I've never felt so ambivalent about one.

Have you? Where do you draw the moral line, in regard to literature?

Thing I'm thankful for: quiet evenings at work. But only sometimes. :)


Blogger Melissa said...

Sara...I agree with you about East of Eden, in some ways it is just to crazy but I also really liked it. Gma Rhea is the person who first introduced me to the book and I now have her copy ;) Since Gma made it through the book that says something but if it makes you feel any better I cannot stand Dickens and everyone is always appalled when I say that ;)

5:16 PM  
Blogger Cherie (and sometimes Senor) said...

I think Sara if you feel uncomfortable reading it, that's your own personal moral compass steering you away for whatever reason. Does not make it right/wrong. I think too we have to keep in mind EVERYTHING we expose ourselves to (sensory-wise) remains in our minds and can come back to "haunt" us so to speak at any time. I think it is for that reason we are encouraged to seek out learning, from the best books. I think we each have to define that, but for me that includes the question "is it uplifting and edifying, does it make me think/feel good things?" Ok, I'll step down off my box now. Be curious to see your decision!

5:33 PM  
Blogger A Frost said...

I have not read East of Eden (it is on my list). I did feel that way reading Memoirs of a Geisha... morally there were parts that made me VERY uncomfortable.

5:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't waste time on thing's you don't like. You don't have to have a reason. Just put the book down, and walk away slowly. Nevermind that it's written by Steinbeck. He can still be a great writer even if you don't like all his books.

10:50 AM  
Blogger Lorie said...

I have never read Eat of Eden, but if it makes you uncomfortable then I think you have drawn your line! ;D

1:46 PM  
Blogger vinestreet said...

Here is an article that I always refer to when in doubt.


It's called, "A Mormon Writer Looks at the Problem of Evil in Fiction."

Very good, I recommend it.

8:40 PM  

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