Sunday, August 18, 2013

Steinbeck, Always Burning Bright

Steinbeck's "play-novelette," which he defines as, "A play that is easy to read or a short novel that can be played simply by lifting out the dialogue," Burning Bright is a slim and punchy read, where something interesting occurs on nearly every page.  The story follows acrobat Joe Saul and his wife Mordeen.  Upon learning that he is not able to conceive, Joe Saul falls into a dark mood (You have the blackest eyes - like new split coal - that black!" says Mordeen) about not being able to pass on his lineage. Mordeen is also pursued by Joe Saul's acrobatics partner Victor.  Mordeen decides that she will give Joe Saul a child with Victor.  When Joe Saul learns his wife is pregnant (and thinks he is the father, he exclaims in delight "There's going to be a baby playing in this house.  There's going to be a child playing in that dust.  There's going to be a growing thing discovering the sky and kicking the chickens aside ane finding eggs."  Despite the agreement Mordeen thought she had with Victor, he cannot let go of the fact that he is the father and tries to force her to run away with him.  Luckily, Joe Saul's best friend, Friend Ed, takes the situation into his own hands and kills Victor.   It is a very dramatic and edgy tale.  Perhaps because the writing has some of the characteristics of a play, the story features a great deal of dialogue, which is one of Steinbeck's strongest suits. 

Other great quotes:
Joe Saul, to Mordeen - "Walk tenderly.  Oh, take gentle care.  Rest, and let your thoughts be high and beautiful."  
Friend Ed, to Joe Saul, in trying to get him to see the beauty of raising a son, even if it is not biologically his own - "You crush loveliness on the rocks of your stinking pride."  

All in all, another masterpiece from Steinbeck. 

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