So I went to dinner at the in-laws, like I do every other night. And, like usual, we watched OPB. Only tonight, they had a program on called “Novel Reflections on the American Dream”, and the description is this:
Many of our finest writers have dared to wrestle with the inequities that lie in the shadows, beyond the dream — class and money and, often, a false promise of upward mobility. Presented in a dynamic visual style, designed to maximize viewer appreciation of the stories, the program examines these themes reflected through universal characters found in Theodore Dreiser’s “Sister Carrie,” Edith Wharton’s “The House of Mirth,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath.” Passages from each book are dramatized through haunting still photography and woven together with original and archival footage to evoke the American spirit.
We got there when they began the Fitzgerald segment, which I enjoyed, because I like THE GREAT GATSBY and always have been fascinated by Fitzgerald and Zelda.
But then they got to THE GRAPES OF WRATH. And I was sitting at the table with my sister-in-law, who just came over from India last year, and so I told her about the story so that she could follow along better (they had really great footage and pictures) and then told her that I bawl every time I read it.
This is true — the book wrecks me, every single time. I don’t even have to read the entire thing. I can pick up any section, start reading, and before long it weighs down on me and I’m bawling. And they’re showing these sad, wrenching pictures of migrant workers, and reciting passages from the book … and then they hit the end scene of the book. And they enact it … kind of. It’s really slow, and subtle, and not any outrageous acting.
And the next thing I know I’m crying all over the table, and trying to pretend the tomato-aloo was just too freaking hot, but I’ve already eaten it all, and my SIL is backing slowly away and clearing the dishes and trying very hard not to look at me. We left right after, and now Bizarro Seinfeld is playing, my daughter’s running around naked eating a popsicle, and I’m not crying anymore.
Anyway, there are some books I want to bawl just because I know I’ll never write anything that good, or that powerful. There are lots of books that I say, “I wish I’d written that.” I don’t really do either with THE GRAPES OF WRATH — it’s one of those I just feel really freaking blessed to have read it. And that’s enough.
I just hope my SIL recovers.