"The Grapes of Wrath" review
This World of Books By Lee Berry- Berry- ifW'xw.om-,-?v.'.-.'v.. ifW'xw.om-,-?v.'.-.'v.. ifW'xw.om-,-?v.'.-.'v.. ifW'xw.om-,-?v.'.-.'v.. ifW'xw.om-,-?v.'.-.'v.. ifW'xw.om-,-?v.'.-.'v.. ifW'xw.om-,-?v.'.-.'v.. John Steinbeck. (From a painting by Beskov) EPIC: For year critics have been waiting for Ernest Hemingway, Sinclair Lewis, John Dos Passos or some unknown to step for ward and write the Great American Novel. This week it looks as if the trick had finally been turned. John Steinbeck's heroic "The Grapes of Wrath" (Viking, $2.75) is certainly the most electrifying novel of the year, probably the most important American novel of the present century and possibly the hardest hitting work of fiction yet written in this country. Those are reckless words, and a supposedly hard-boiled hard-boiled hard-boiled reviewer should know better than to Indulge in such fantastic superlatives. But by any standards at all this tough, tender, exalting saga of American life Is a magnificent creative achievement, packed to the covers with high-voltage high-voltage high-voltage writing and powerful powerful characterizations, and possessed of that same terrific emotional impact which has kept "Uncle Tom's Cabin" in circulation for the more than 10 years that have passed since the abolition of slavery-Climax slavery-Climax slavery-Climax piles on climax as the story moves swiftly and surely towards its last desperate pages, and any reader who can pass through the walloping walloping final scene and still maintain a nice sense of critical proportion ought not to be reading fiction at all. This isn't merely a good novel or a distinguished distinguished novel or an exicting novel. If s a great novel, and you don't need a course In literary appreciation to know it. Excellent as were "Tortilla Flat," "Of Mice and Men" and "In Dubious Battle," the previous Steinbeck novels now turn out to have been curtain-raisers curtain-raisers curtain-raisers for the present work. Everything that made the other books memorable is here in still greater quantity, plus a narrative conceived on an epic scale, a seering hatred of social in justice and a feeling for the nobility of the human spirit that no other American writer of our time can even begin to matcn. The storv itself concerns the transcontinental journey of an Okla homa family who have been driven from their land by foreclosing bankers and attracted to California by false promises of work. The family are the Joads, good American stock of seven and eight genera tions back, nnd their pitiful caravan includes Ma, Pa, Uncle John Grampa, Granma, three grown sons a pregnant daughter, her husband and two younger children. Along with them goes an ex-preacner, ex-preacner, ex-preacner, a man whose spiritual stature has taken him far beyond the simple tenets of rustic evangelism. The first half of the book, describing the forced exodus of the Joads from Oklahoma and the start of their journey across the continent in a third-hand third-hand third-hand jalopy, contains much earthly comedy, a growing vein of grin tragedy. In California, where the Joads and thousands of other have-nots have-nots have-nots are hounded, exploited and starved in turn, tne comic note dies out, the tragic theme swells info a mighty chorus. The final scene, certain to arouse violent discussion, is devastating, "The Grapes of Wrath" will be enormously popular, for it is too compelling a story and too magnificent a literary achievement to lack readers. It is also likely to be enormously influential, for John Steinbeck is an angry man, and he has poured the full flood of that anger into a novel that can be quite fairly called inspired propaganda, ihe doaas, like millions of other Americans, are cold and hungry, without money, without hope and without work. And as Mr. Steinbeck has occasion to say more than once, "when a majority of the people are hungry and cold they will take by force what they need." Those who deplore the Hitlers and Stalins of our age had better t take a look at America through Steinbeck eyes. It's a tragic, terrifying and unforgettable sight.