Fall is here. As many a yoga instructor have mentioned this month, fall is a time of transitions and changes. Here at Common Good, it’s a time to curl up by the window and crack open a book. Here’s what we’re burying our noses into instead of looking at those cute French bull dogs on the subway:
East of Eden
I started this novel on my journey back east from Hawaii. A ten hour, non-stop flight requires something truly epic, and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden delivers. The rough and tumble tale of two Salinas Valley families seems particularly prescient in light of the current scarcity of resources in California. While it might be difficult to replicate the experience of flying over the checkered landscape of America’s “Salad Bowl” while reading about it, Steinbeck makes it easy to envision the potential early 20th century farmers saw in a land full of rich soil, mud and dust. Of course, the book has its problems—racism foremost among them—but I became hooked after reading about the story’s villain, Cathy Ames, I mean Kate Trask, I mean Kate Albey. The woman changes her name so much in the novel it’s hard to keep up! With the face of an angel and a heart of stone, Kate runs Salinas’ most depraved brothel with the business savvy Donald Trump would admire.
Honestly, I picked this book up for $1 at a thrift store recently because I thought the illustrations on the cover were very nice. An unexpected twist, it’s a great book! It’s Colette’s semi-autobiographical tale about navigating life as a newly divorced, independent woman in a man’s world (Paris in the early 20th century). It doesn’t feel dated at all. Her descriptions of an unexpected suitor who poses a threat to her newly, delicately constructed single-lady life are both hilarious and ring all-too-true if you’ve ever teeter-tottered on the cusp of romantic ambivalence towards someone. She also refers to this romantic pursuer as “The Big Noodle,” which is amazing.
Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali
A fascinating study of how far off the mark western society was in their understanding of Balinese water technology. The Balinese water irrigation system was intricately tied to their social and cultural systems, going so deep as to influence their perception of time. When Green Revolution notions of increasing agricultural yields were imposed on this pre-existing system, agriculture and water management was effectively decoupled from the religious and social structures. This resulted in decreased yields and increased incidences of pests. This book reinforces the notion that water issues are affected by the specifics of locale and culture, and in turn, how intricately bound societies are to their water supply.