Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Bus Stops Here

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck is (I know, I know) not a new title--technically; nonetheless...

I pulled our old copy for replacement and discovered just how hard it is to replace this title. It's not one of Steinbeck's better known works. Being a fan of the man, I took our copy home to read while waiting on its replacement. It is classic Steinbeck.

With a few carefully chosen words, he creates a cast of characters that run to type: the gorgeous blonde, the manipulative wife and her uninspired businessman husband, the star-struck girl, the loser kid, fast-talking salesman, and troublesome old guy. But from his pen, they emerge fresh and real--little people with big troubles thrown together for a bus ride on an old vehicle that starts the book up on a lift for repairs.

The two characters who are Real in this menage of stereotypes are Juan, the bus driver and host at the bus stop, and Mildred, a college student attracted to Juan from their first meeting. Both seem to be observers of the others and their coming together is less a seduction and more the natural gravition of like to like.

Steinbeck is always loving with his characters and, though this is far from his best book, his characters live and breath and talk and change, discovering things about themselves on this short journey to nowhere. Juan in particular, who thought he was going to walk away from his wife and all responsibilities, discovers that he can't do it. He is a responsible man, after all.

We knew it all along.

There are echos of this book in the movie, Bus Stop, written by George Axelrod from the William Inge play. The obvious similarity is found in the blonde--Marilyn Monroe creates te role of the curvacious blonde. Now I've got to watch the movie to find the other parallels!

1 comment:

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