Monday, April 25, 2011

Great Books: Of Mice and Men

I love teaching Steinbeck's short novel (go ahead, call it a novella) of friendship and dreams during the Great Depression. Students tend to love it, too--at least those who read it.

And at just under 30, 000 words*, most students will give it a try.

Steinbeck's language is beautiful but straight-forward, his dialogue and voice spot on. Of Mice and Men is a great vehicle for teaching characterization, foreshadowing, and theme.

I love this book, and I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to read it every year.

*How would Steinbeck have pitched a 30K novel in today's publishing world? Would he have self-published on Kindle because the big 6 were looking for 100K novels? Sorry--couldn't help myself. But just think of the gap in American literature if Of Mice and Men never saw print.

11 comments:

Tony Southcotte said...

I remember reading it as one of my 10th grade english courses. Of Mice and Men was easily the best book we read that semester, and even the kids who usually bitched about having to read anything enjoyed it.

Even the movie adaptation was done pretty well. I might have to pick this one up again.

Everett Powers said...

My step-daughter complained about having to read it this year, then cried while reading it. I'm not sure what that means. Did she like it or not? I haven't read it since high school but just finished Steinbeck's "The Wayward Bus". Took 90 pages to really get going, then took off.

Tony said...

I haven't read this since high school, but I did love it. Last year I started reading some of Steinbeck's other short work. Great stuff.

Interesting question about the length. It's hard to say, though I'd like to think publishers would recognize great work.

Aaron Polson said...

Tony S - It's a great refresher on Steinbeck's brilliance as a writer.

Everett - Those are good tears. Good honest tears.

Tony - I'd like to think the same, but... Have I mentioned Snooki's book deal?

Milo James Fowler said...

That's what I love about teaching JH English -- getting to choose the books we read. We're in the middle of The Giver right now, which always brings up great discussion topics: "Uh...So there are 'birth mothers', but where are the 'birth fathers'?"

Jarmara Falconer said...

It makes you wonder just how many old books won't be published into day's market. Thank you for a great posting, Aaron.

Indigo said...

Please don't mention Snooki's book deal. By the Gods I'll never comprehend that one. It goes to show fluff sells. Eats your soul up to think anyone would give her the caliber of having a brain.

Me? I'll keep my soul and sell it on other worthy ventures. Now back to a more worthwhile topic - Steinbeck.

As Tony said, I'd like to think the publishers would have recognized talent. Mice and Men, didn't need another 30,000 to endear to the heart of it's readers. Unfortunately in this day and age word count determines the format more than anything else may. (Hugs)Indigo

Aaron Polson said...

Milo - The Giver is a great book. Literature gives us the chance to tackle the big issues.

Jarmara - Thanks for reading. Most of the books we read in school are well under what most agents list as their word count ranges. Funny really...

Indigo - True, every word. ;)

Natalie L. Sin said...

I can only think of one book I would read every year, and I don't think they'll be teaching it in school ; )

Katey said...

Oh, you know how I feel about the novella. Mmmm

Also, Steinbeck, who may be the Best Writer Ever. Just saying.

Cate Gardner said...

Yep, I read it at school too. And I heart the novella.