Thursday, June 2, 2011
"The Good Earth" by Pearl S. Buck
I have often been asked why I read a book more than once. It's a simple question, with a simple answer. Take this book, "The Good Earth." I have read this book 4 times in my life, and each time I have come to it with certain expectations, and walked away with a new thought, or insight. These different insights are the result of having gotten older, and experienced more of life with each reading, than I had when I first read it.
The first time I read this book I was in 8th grade, and it was an English assignment. I approached it as a chore, something to be gotten through. The fact that it turned out to be a damn good story was an unexpected bonus.
The second time I read this book I was in my 20's and working aboard oil tankers. There were no DVD's, or VCR's back then, we just had the ABC's, so we read a lot. This second time I approached the book expecting a great adventure, along with some history. I was not disappointed, and I even identified a bit with Wang Lung, as I was now out working for a living. Wang Lung and I had become somewhat kindred spirits.
The third time I read this book Wang Lung and I were becoming fast friends. I was newly married, with kids who depended upon my paycheck. Wang Lung and I were now members of the same secret society - "The Scared Father's Club." You must not fail; your family depends upon you. Wang's wife, O-Lan, was now more than an abstract literary figure, I began to see her role as Wang's greateast strength, just as Sue had become mine. We, and they, were a team, learning more about one another every day. Both Wang and I now depended upon our wives understated, but iron wills, to make it all work.
I am now just finishing up with my fourth reading of this powerful, historical, and at times, biblically cadenced novel. And this time, with my 25th Anniversary approaching, I am more aware of the bond that O-Lan and Wang, as well as Sue and I, have formed with one another over the years. Faced with all of life’s problems, I cannot imagine being without Sue, just as I cannot picture Wang without O-Lan.
Through feast and famine, sickness and health, marriage is a learning process. I, at least, had the advantage of choosing my bride. Wang Lung did not. But in the same fashion, we have still had to learn about one another, just as Wang and O-Lan did.
So, in this fourth reading, as I have aged, I have come to appreciate the book on a whole different level, one which does nothing to diminish the lessons I may have learned through my previous readings. On the contrary, those conclusions are now reinforced by the added dimension which my age has lent to this reading. And as I have grown older, Wang and I have come to understand one another more than ever before.
And that's the simple answer to why I sometimes read a book more than once.