I am lagging behind! I just finished John Steinbeck’s The Red Pony but according to my list I should finish Rachel Joyce’s novel tomorrow. I am not lagging behind because I haven’t been reading, I was simply reading other stuff. I am currently reading a lot of non-fiction books and history magazines on various topics that interest me in the moment (Zero-Waste and Europe 1848 etc). Whenever I am not reading (or working :-), I listen to audiobooks like Mathieu Ricard’s Happiness and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
I thought it would be easy enough to finish The Red Pony last week considering that it is only 90 odd pages long but I didn’t. I am an awfully emotional reader sometimes and it can happen that certain books or topics are simply to much for me. The death of Jody’s first horse, Gabilan, turned me into a pathetic weeping bundle of misery (this also holds true for the scene in Wild where they shoot Lady). When Jody in his rage bludgeons one of the buzzard that started picking at Gabilan’s corpse to death, I felt sick to my stomach.
Jody brought up his knee and fell on the great bird. He held the neck to the ground with one hand while the other found a piece of white quartz. The first blow broke the beak sideways and black blood spurted from the twisted, leathery mouth corners. He struck again and missed. The red fearless eyes still looked at him, impersonal and unafraid and detached. He struck again and again, until the buzzard lay dead, until his head was red pulp. (Pony 36)
I love John Steinbeck and I know that romance and happy endings weren’t his thing. Although his writing is full of imagery and poetry, his inspiration often stems from the harshness and savagery of real life. But this time, the story about Jody who has his young and innocent heart broken twice when the horses that were meant to bring him joy suffer and die, the story became ‘unbearable painful for me to read’. The ruthlessness of growing up in rural California is intensified by the way Steinbeck draws the setting: the beautiful landscape he knows better than the back of his hand. Jody’s dreams are not only shattered but he also has to learn that his childhood heroes, like the help Billy Buck, are in fact fallible like every other human being.
As this book and the audiobook of Wild have been extremely emotional reads for me, I decided to postpone reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – its topic again hits too close to home. Instead, I will have a good look at my list and opt for something “lighter” to read. I also realised that I still have to write something about Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, the first book I read in 2017.