Greetings, Saint Rose readers. While I have been mentioned on this blog previously, allow me the chance to introduce myself personally. My name is Dr. David Szczerbacki, and in October 2012 I was officially inaugurated as
the president of The College of Saint Rose. I joined Saint Rose in 2004 as provost and vice president, and have taken much pleasure in contributing to and seeing our College transform and grow over the years.
I suppose you’re wondering why I’m here. I’ve joined the blog because I would like to share my pleasure of reading with others in The College of Saint Rose community. To this end, I am launching an online book discussion blog – Read with President Szczerbacki.
Four books a year will be featured – one every three months beginning January 2013. This blog will note the current book as well as the book for the next period quarter (April – June 2013). The blog will offer my general impressions on the selection and some initial questions designed to start things off. The blog comment format will allow you to share your point of view and raise additional questions. In the process, we can engage in what should be an enjoyable intellectual experience.
So, I hope you give it a try!
Current Selection (January – March 2013): John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath*
My reasons for selecting one of Steinbeck’s classic works are personal, pragmatic and, I believe, very timely. On a personal level, when my Father was recovering from major cancer surgery some 15 years ago, this was the first book he read! What is significant (for me) is that prior to this he was not much of a reader – Reader’s Digest – yes; Legion Magazine – yes; classic fiction – never! My Father said to me at that time: “I never knew reading would be so enjoyable.” He went on to read everything he could get his hands over the last five years of his life. Chalk-up this selection as gratitude to Steinbeck.
On a pragmatic level, this is a widely read classic which continues to sell well. Thus, the selection should be familiar to many – increasing the chances of attracting early blog participants.
Finally, while the book offers a powerfully graphic portrayal of the causes and consequences of the Great Depression in the United States, issues raised are contemporary and perhaps (unfortunately) timeless. Steinbeck portrays a crumbling social fabric in the face of corporatization, exploitation, dislocation, and greed. We see the income inequality in graphic terms – haves vs. have-nots; and, have-nots vs. have-nots. It is a grim portrayal of the shattering, for many, of the American Dream. In the face of all of this, Steinbeck also tells a story of hope, resilience of the human spirit, and pride. The Grapes of Wrath is therefore also a story of emerging consciousness (both class and personal), community, and solidarity.
Overall, it is a very powerful book in my view. The central characters of the Novel, the Joad family (along with a cast of fellow travelers), offer striking contrasts of humanity and despair. The family Matriarch, in particular, emerges as a powerful moral force by book’s end.
I am interested in what you think:
- What is your opinion of the book?
- Do you have an opinion of my general observations?
- Do you have a favorite character?
- Are there contemporary examples of Steinbeck’s themes – in the U.S.? Globally?
Please feel free to answer and contribute your own questions through comments here. I look forward to reading and responding to your postings.
For those who like to plan ahead: Next Selection (April – May 2013): Yann Martel, Life of Pi
*The Saint Rose Campus Store has agreed to offer The Grapes of Wrath at a 30% discount. Please visit the store in-person to receive the discount.