I really wanted to read and finish East of Eden. But last night I stopped mid-way. I hated it. I hated Cathy, and I hated the philosophical wanderings from the narrator at the beginning of some chapters.
Then, this morning I started reading Why Teach, In Defense of a Real Education by Mark Edmundson, which I found in the library while I was looking for a book on the GRE.
In the first chapter, while discussing classroom evaluation he writes – what he really wants to know from his students is what about the class changed them. He wants them to measure themselves against what they’ve read. He tells the story of a Columbia University instructor who asked a two-part question to students: “One: What book did you most dislike in the course? Two: What intellectual or characterological flaws in you does that dislike point to?”
I start thinking about the book I disposed of last night.
I really disliked East of Eden. I didn’t like that Adam Trask leaves New England on a train and just arrives in California. It had to be an arduous trip but the narrator leaves no details. I hate that Trask doesn’t notice the evil in his wife, and Cathy is pure evil. I stopped shortly after the torture she performs on the madam in the brothel to whom she calls her new “mother”.
Earlier in the book I hated the brutality between the Trask brothers.
What do these dislikes say about my intellectual flaws?
I give up easily when I don’t like something. Unfortunately I’ve been this way since middle school.
Violence in any form is so disturbing to me that I have to leave the situation: turn off the TV, stop reading a book, or walk away. I want to be educated on my own terms. When I start my first graduate class in November I will need to be more willing to address these character flaws and to open my mind.
I know I will need to eventually finish East of Eden but for now, I’m going to start another reading list book: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. I think I read it in high school but I don’t remember it.