East of Eden, John Steinbeck
I’m back. The real slim shady. Please stand up. Maybe not…
I stopped blogging for about 6 months. I didn’t even reach my self-imposed, measly aim of 12 blog posts first time round. Why? Nobody read it. Or very few people read it. Which I took to mean that nobody liked it. Which surely meant it wasn’t any good. Shell dented, pride wounded, I withdrew. If nobody read my blog what was the point? Who was interested in what a 30 year-old album made a 35 year-old child feel like on a Sunday morning crying into his coffee, wishing he’d made less of his weekend and more of his ambitions of his artistic life? But that would be an excuse.
We can all suffer from hubris. It has advantages, but it can hold you back. I mean, seriously, what did I expect? To pour my heart out a few times over something that excited me but most people couldn’t give two damns about, and overnight turn into Deliciously f*cking Ella getting rich off 3 million hits?
Come on. Anyone who has done this, or tried this, or succeeded or failed at this will tell you getting any sort of interest in a brand new blog, even something as heart-racingly pant-soiling as “clean eating”, takes around 2 years. And I’ve just wasted 6 months feeling sorry for myself. Or being lazy. Or both.
In those 6 months I came to realise a wonderful thing. What does it matter? What does it matter if nobody reads this? What difference will it make to anything or anyone on earth if this gets read or not? I realised, too late, in my lonely, teary state that I’m not doing this for you. I’m not doing it for any money. I’m not even doing it as a wind-up or to annoy The Boss by clacking away at the keys while she’s trying to concentrate on her MiC catch-up, as amusing as that is. I’m doing it for myself.
So here I am, after a long holiday, writing something that no one will read and even fewer people will care about. Because it makes me look at things differently. It makes me notice, in a time when so little of value truly gets noticed. Because it connects me in a completely different way to some of the things I love. Records and writing.
I’m not normally one for biblical anything let alone unexpected parallels, so it may seem peculiar that I’ve chosen East of Eden to kick-start the second coming of the blog. But I only came to the book recently, and it took me on a journey. From the despair and anguish to wild ambition and hope. In a way, some would argue, that only religion, or passion, can. And sometimes that’s all we need.
Steinbeck’s soft, tender tone belies the brutality of what’s at hand. Murder, betrayal, prostitution, depravity, family, place and love. And I was hooked throughout all 601 pages.
His descriptions of the valley & the farms. The smells and sights of this stunning backdrop set you up for your ride and give you comfort, when perhaps you should be on your guard.
Wonderful, exceptional characters. To despise, to love. Cathy and Caleb, Sam and Lee. Characters you wish would make different decisions. Some you wished weren’t quite as real or familiar as they seem, some you wished could be real.
In addition to all these contradictory emotions, it provides a poignant, simple philosophy that we could all do well to recall from time to time. Lee’s version of ‘Timshel’ – thou mayest. Not, ‘you must’, or ‘you shall’, but ‘you may’. And, therefore, you may not. It’s in your hands. Think about this next time you’re unsure of which decision to take.
And so back to the blog. You can take it or leave it. It really doesn’t matter. I’ll no longer agonise over every pointless word or worry that sentences don’t make sense, as I’m sure many won’t. I won’t pore over every fact or reference or worry that I’m making a fool of myself.
I got it wrong. The response to low readership should not be to withdraw, to write less, but to double down. Try harder, get better. So my aim now is simply to produce. To make something. To write.
So read it. Share it. ‘Like’ it. Laugh at it. Or don’t. Timshel.