“And rightly so: for it is to him who masters our minds by force of truth, not to those who enslave them by violence, that we owe our reverence.” -Voltaire, in When Einstein Walked With Godel by Jim Holt

Quotes from East of Eden by John Steinbeck

You can boast about anything if it’s all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast. – page 4

Page 55

It would be absurd if we did not understand both angels and devils, since we invented them. Page 133

.. Some men are friends with the whole world in their hearts, and there are others that hate themselves and spread hatred around like butter on hot bread. Page 144

Well, a man’s mind can’t stay in time the way his body does. Page 145

No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that it is true and true of us. Page 268

… People are only interested in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen… A great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting – only the deeply personal and familiar. Page 270

The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears. Page 270

… With rejection comes anger, and with anger some kind of crime in revenge for the rejection, and with the crime guilt – and there is the story of mankind. Page 270

.. If rejection could be amputated, the human would not be what he is. Maybe there would be fewer crazy people. Page 270

The human is the only guilty animal. Page 271

Couldn’t a world be built around accepted truth? Couldn’t some pains and insanities be ripped out if the causes were known? Page 271

… A woman who knows all about men usually knows one part very well and can’t conceive other parts, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. P. 322

At this time I had to return the book to the library. Then I borrowed it again, but this time from a different library, and it was part of John Steinbeck: Novels 1942 – 1952 from The Library of America.

An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable in our times. p. 589

“It’s one of the great fallacies, it seems to me,” said Lee, “that time gives much of anything but years and sadness to a man.” p.708

A child may ask, “What is the world’s story about?” And a grown man or woman may wonder, “What way will the world go? How does it end and, while we’re at it, what’s the story about?” p.747

Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last, and this despite any changes we may impose on field and river and mountain, on economy and manners. There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well – or ill? p 747

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest with ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in the world. p 749

Nearly everyone has his box of secret pain, shared with no one. p. 815

“I guess this personal hide-and-seek is not unusual. And some people are ‘it’ all their lives – hopelessly ‘it’.” p. 824

“Laughter comes later, like wisdom teeth, and laughter at yourself comes last of all in a mad race with death, and sometimes it isn’t in time.” p. 835

“All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies… And we’re so overbrave and over fearful – we’re kind and cruel as children. We’re overfriendly and at the same time afraid of strangers. We boast and are impressed. We’re oversentimental and realistic.We are mundane and materialistic – and do you know of any other nations that acts for ideals? We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We throw our energy about like waste. In the old lands they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture…” p. 913

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

… Father said clocks slay time. He said time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come back to life.

Page 85

So I finished this book. It’s like all human flaws were crammed into a few characters and you watched it play out like a slow train crash. The most logical-seeming person was also the worst. The most convoluted narrative was the most innocent character. The character that seemed to have something going for him, whose life looked like it was just beginning… Well, I’m not going to spoil it. The whole book is just tragic.

Question of the week from Jared Diamond

If we succeed in examining how some people came to dominate other people, may this not seem to justify the domination? Doesn’t it seem to say that the outcome was inevitable, and that it would therefore be futile to try to change the outcome today?

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies

I picked this book up 10 years ago but got too busy to read the whole thing. Here’s to another try.

The Emporer of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter

Depression is seductive: it offend and teases, frightens you and draws you in, tempting you with its promise of sweet oblivion, then overwhelming you with a nearly sexual power, squirming past your defenses, dissolving your will, invading the tired spirit so utterly that it becomes difficult to recall that you ever lived without it… Or to imagine that you might live that way again. With all the guile of Satan himself, depression persuades you that its invasion was all your own idea, that you wanted it all along. It fogs the part of the brain that reasons, that knows right and wrong. It captures you with its warm, guilty, hateful pressures, and, worst of all, it becomes familiar. All at once, you find yourself in thrall to the very thing that most terrifies you… To be depressed is to be half in love with disaster. P. 152-153

We live so much of our lives in chaos. Human history can be viewed as an endless search for greater order: everything from language to religion to law to science tries to impose a framework on classic existence. P. 229

We look at our bodies, our energies, and we think we own them: we do not recognize, with Emerson, that they are a part of the world to be husbanded with care, to be respected, not to be misused; we think they are ours to do with what we will. And so, thinking we have been liberated, we joyfully pave the paths to our destruction. P. 583

But guilt comes in more than one variety. And so does punishment. P. 648

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

I finished this book a couple of months ago but forgot I had written down some stuff from it!

“If you marvel at your good fortune, you should marvel in secret: never let people see you.” – p. 186

“Our possessions outlasts us,… we have to live up to them, as they will be our witnesses when we are gone.” p. 54

“You need to write everything down, he tells his people. Distrust yourself. Human memory is fallible.” p. 63

Do you know why they say, ‘There’s no smoke without fire?’ It’s not just to give encouragement to people who like fires. It’s a statement about the danger of chimneys, but also about the courts of kings – or any space where trapped air circulates, choking on itself. A spark catches a particle of falling soot: with a crackle, the matter ignites: with a roast, the flames fly skyward, and within minutes, the palace is ablaze.” p. 141

“But the law is not an instrument to find out truth. It is there to create a fiction that will help us move past atrocious acts and face our future. It seems there is no mercy in this world, but a kind of haphazard justice: men pray for crimes, but not necessarily their own.” – p. 729

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

We think time cannot touch the dead, but it touches their monuments… P. 10

Death is your prince, you are not his patron; when you think he is engaged elsewhere, he will batter down your door, walk in and wipe his boots on you. P. 136

What is the nature of the border between truth and lies? It is permeable and blurred because it is planted thick with rumor, confabulation, misunderstandings and twisted tales. Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door. P. 159

… Don’t pay out good money for horoscopes. If things are going to go badly for you, is that what you need to know as you saddle up? P. 165

… If a man’s subject is deception, you are deceived if you think you grasp his meaning. Page 348

If what someone wants from you is an admission, it is never in your interest to give it. Page 353

Intrigue feeds on itself; conspiracies have neither mother nor father, and yet they thrive: the only thing to know is that no one knows anything. P. 370

Thoughts and an excerpt from East of Eden by John Steinbeck

So I’m reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I read it when I was 13 years old in middle school and at that time, I remember it as a continous puzzlement of mentally pleading to the characters, “Noooo, don’t do that!” over and over again. I felt like everybody in the book was a slow moving train wreck and when I finished it, I felt “bothered” by it but wasn’t sure how. It felt like a Grimm’s fairy tale with no happy ending. I didn’t understand how people worked (and probably still don’t; see: autism) in the book and couldn’t compare it to real life because no one acted that way in my small 13 year old world. I realize now that no 13 or 14 year old would “get” it, not in a “been there” way.  I believe there is a time to read certain things (but I wouldn’t forbid anyone reading, though).

I’d recommend reading East of Eden with at least 30 years’ of life experience. Reading this book in my 40s is another thing entirely. Now, I feel like I understand it. And I wonder if all the women in Steinbeck’s life were “suspicious of fun”, “had no spark of humor and only occasionally a blade of cutting wit”, “a pale inside-herself woman” on which “no open laughter raised the corners of her mouth”. We haven’t even gotten to Cathy yet. I’m on page 132, and I don’t remember what happens next. I’m hoping there is a woman that isn’t miserable or evil or drab, a woman with strength, personality, joy, openness, warmth, and a moral compass. I want to tell Steinbeck that women can have all of those qualities and it wouldn’t threaten anyone’s masculinity, but this could be the 2020s talking to the 1950s. Anyways…

This is a beautiful and introspective book at times. The writing is snappy, flavorful, and sensory. The language is nowhere near as hard as Ulysses (I’m still working through that one). It’s very palatable if one wants a see a master of description at work. The setting and the characters are drawn so well that I can sense their essence. What really is worth reading are the small sections of… Ponderance?

There are sentences that I do agree with and ones I don’t. But I just had to share this whole section – I have no recollection of reading this in middle school; it probably went over my head – but now these are my favorite parts.