Steinbeck’s prose has never been -for me, at least- so strong a thing as to recommend his writing to me in and of itself. Fortunately, the man is a compelling teller of stories. His characters are often marginalized, the victims of an institutionalized discrimination that leaves them to struggle heroically, but helplessly, against the forces of their doom. Because of the markedly higher stakes, I’ve always found myself drawn to the well-told stories of the disenfranchised. “Of Mice and Men” was published in 1937 -obviously a work that far predates literary favored sons like Denis Johnson and Raymond Carver. Perhaps Steinbeck is glanced over in more prestigious literary circles in this regard for the sin of being incredibly common on high school required reading lists?
Regardless, I loved reading this book. I had somehow missed out on it in high school myself (although I’m certain Young Sean would have loved it) but reading it now, as an adult with formal education in literature and a hell of a lot of damn good books behind me is an equally rewarding experience. I felt the same way about reading Moby-Dick for the first time last year. “Of Mice and Men” is not dependent upon the green-reading nature of an indentured teenaged audience -it’s a powerful and enduring work. Neither is it dependent on plot and surprise -I knew the events of the story before reading it and I felt my reading experience was improved for it (but I’m not really a “spoiler guy” so take that with a grain of salt if you tend to get personally invested in your clean mental pallette).
Recommendation: Read it. Read it again if it’s been a few years. It will be a short and enjoyable revisit.