The Winter of Our Discontent


Winter of Our Discontent Author John Steinbeck / Published by Penguin Books / Copyright 1961 / Paperback, 276 pages

I used to have a really old hardbound copy of this book which I kept from childhood. It came from my aunt’s library, which she generously left in ours. I treasured that book, literally. It was a personal treasure, which I then gave to a dear friend as a going away gift. I thought it was a good idea at the time – passing on the light, as it were.

So what I have now is a paperback edition.

This Nobel Prize winner is just one of the simply beautiful gifts from John Steinbeck. I have of course read and kept copies of the more popularly read East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, The Red Pony, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flats. I am a fan. Steinbeck has a rare talent of being able to pull the reader’s heart out and break it into a thousand pieces with simple, everyday language.

I feature this title because I am wishing my son would one day get to read it.

For there is something about this quiet little story of Ethan Hawley, store clerk, that calmly slips into your secret self, your secret thoughts, your secret fears and audaciously shines a steady beam. Look away or take a closer look, it is up to you. My boy, I urge you to take a closer look.

Turns out literary critics didn’t think the book deserved the Nobel in 1962, but then, I’m no fan of critics either.

Chapter Fifteen: the character Richard Walder, talking with Ethan

“I don’t know whether I do or not. You know how he talks – like corn popping. I’m trying to translate what he tried to explain. It’s like a man is made a certain way with a certain direction. If he changes that, something blows, he strips a gear, he gets sick. It’s like a—well, like a do-it-yourself police court. You have to pay for a violation. You’re his down payment, kind of, so the light won’t go out.”


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