When the Monster stops growing…

I confess, I’ve not been much of a reader these last weeks. I’ve been early to bed, but mostly I’m tired and so it’s straight to sleep for me. I finished Gerald Durrell’s My Family and other Animals which had me laughing out loud and actually took me two weeks to read. I loved it. The descriptions of all the creatures in matchboxes and accidental dogs were wonderful. It’s funny, because I’ve used the bit with Geronimo the gecko before now – it’s perfect for teaching paired sentences in a conflict – but only ever read bits of it as an extract.

Let me tell you, it made me pine for Greece and for warmth.

Then I moved on to Faye Kellerman’s Cold Case because I love police procedurals and I hadn’t read it, but I’m afraid it did not really get me going. Too many characters, too much incidental, unnecessary religion and family stuff, and too unconvincing. I’d read a couple of hers when I was in the UK and a member of the library, but remembered why I didn’t read any more. It’s weird because I love her husband Jonathon’s writing. He does the Alex Delaware books.

Now I’ve gone for a classic and I’m continuing my Steinbeck journey with the one I’ve never read – The Grapes of Wrath. It seems strangely familiar, banks eating up those low down on the pecking order. In times of recession, it’s kind of familiar to read about hardship and then know that whatever hardship we have, it’s nothing like this. Not only that, it’s a place and a family at the mercy of the weather – now I know last year’s weather left me with a much reduced crop, but even so… not the same. I can sort of see why Steinbeck was so attracted to all the Bible stories – it must have seen like the seven years of famine there. It’s the first I’ve read that’s neither picaresque nor allegorical and it was weird at first. I just read the bit about the banks, which seems so very familiar:

“We can’t depend on it. The bank – the monster – has to have profits all the time. It can’t wait. It’ll die. No, taxes go on. When the monster stops growing, it dies. It can’t stay one size.”

I did one of my photography projects on Dorothea Lange – the eminent Great Depression photographer whose images captured the sentiments of a decade. I love her because she was a woman in what was a man’s world and she got some amazing candids – no doubt because she was a woman. She was an immigrant, a polio sufferer and a complete female role model. She was also a pioneer in the world of documentary photography and that is also too cool. The whole Grapes of Wrath world is the one she photographed.

I’m also loving it because, despite having taught Of Mice and Men more times than I can count, it’s still one of my favourites. Steinbeck feels so comfortable to me. I confess, too, anti-American Dream stuff really quenches my literary thirst. If I had to pick a Mastermind subject, apart from my encyclopaedic knowledge of Criminal Minds and the likes, Post-WWI American Literature would be my go-to subject. Poetry, drama, prose. I’d take it all. Sometimes, I wish I could go back to University and do it all again. Only this time, I’d stay on and do a PhD in something esoteric and unusual. Like Eugene O’Neill, Maxim Gorky or the Theatre of the Absurd. I’d have liked to have been a world-famous expert on something niche.

So, what have I read this year?

  • Freakonomics
  • Dude, Where’s My Country
  • On Chesil Beach
  • Follow the Money
  • Hija de la Fortuna
  • Cold Case
  • My Family and Other Animals

Already, I’ve forgotten what most of them were about.




2 thoughts on “When the Monster stops growing…

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