Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The National Steinbeck Center

John Steinbeck was my first.

My first serious read that is. My first author to take my mind some place new. My first transporter.

 I don't know why I thought to ask my mother what to read before we traveled west to Monterey, CA. It seemed like an offhand under my breath type of moment.

 She didn't even blink or need a moment to think before she handed me the worn but loved book from the bookshelf. Tortilla Flat. Hmm...I liked tortillas. Yet I was confused. Why would she give me a book about tortillas when we lived in Texas and had many in abundance?

I read the book.  I loved the book. I wanted more - stories not tortillas.

Next Cannery Row. Wow. Loved. Laughed. Felt really sorry for Doc.

Then the Red Pony. Never had a book made me cry so hard. Never had anything made me feel for something that wasn't real. Not until JK Rowling came along and killed some lovable characters did I ever feel that way again. In fact I think the Red Pony prepared me for some of those deaths in the various Harry Potter books - but that could be a whole other story!

It was amazing where Steinbeck was taking me. I had never been so enthralled with any author before. Reading at that point in my life was something I thought I did well and often. Then I realised I was ready to dump Sweet Valley High and get stuck in with the big boys.

After reading the three books I felt ready to travel west and experience John Steinbeck's Monterey. Well of course by the time I got there things had changed. It was more of a jet set crowd  than the migrant farmers he was so good at telling their tale. Yet the scenery. It was gorgeous. I knew this hadn't changed. I felt I was seeing it with John Steinbeck that it was something we were sharing.

On that first trip to Monterey there wasn't a museum or hardly any mention of John Steinbeck other than the words from his books that lingered in my mind.

That is why on my most recent trip to the Monterey area I made it a point to visit the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, CA. Finally a place to honor my favorite writer!

The center is arranged and decorated by each one of Steinbeck's books. It is very visual and charming how you walk from Jody's room from the Red Pony into Doc's lab from Cannery row.

Along the way there are movie posters and props to set the mood. Plenty of placards to read and audio clips that play overhead (which do kind of annoy me as I tend to hear more of the audio clips as I am try to read).

The Red Pony posters. Oh that poor pony!!!

The invite to Doc's party. Those boys really did mean well!

I picked up a copy of Travels with Charley in the bookstore. I can't wait to read it.
I don't think there is anything better than just travelling around with your dog.
Actually I am procrastinating on reading it a little bit because to me it signals the end.
One less new book to discover. One less new Steinbeck to discover.
I am torn.

I believe this quote sums up why I really like Steinbeck's writing.

This is a mural on the side of a building next to the Steinbeck Center.

It was with that first trip to Monterey when I was a kid that I started the tradition of reading books from authors from the region I was about to visit. None have ever taken me quite like John Steinbeck, but like I said he was my first serious read. And you never forget your first.

1 comment:

  1. I've only read one or two of his books. He didn't quite resonate with me I'm afraid...

    My first serious read was definitely 19th century literature, but I'm not sure if English or French. I don't know if I picked up Ivanhoe or Les Trois Mousquetaires first... In any case I graduated from children's lit to 19th century French and English (and some American) literature, I completely skipped the "young adult" reading phase! (although I'll admit to reading a few "Sweet Valley High" and "Babysitter's Club" books that I borrowed off my cousin!) ;o)