Books on Tape

By Richmond, Dick | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), January 25, 1996 | Go to article overview

Books on Tape


Richmond, Dick, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


"OF MICE AND MEN"

A novel on CD-ROM by John Steinbeck (unabridged, Penguin Electronic Publishing, $49.95)

This American tragedy set in California in the 1930s is about migrant workers seeking to find a place for themselves in a world that had changed suddenly for the worst. Specifically, it concerns two men groping after a dream in a time when dreaming was the best survival technique.

The men, George and Lennie, could not be less alike. George is small and intelligent; Lennie is big and a simpleton, with the strength of a mule. On his own, Lennie would be like a dangerous child, and like a child, he needs the comfort of pets and pretty things that he can caress.

Lennie and George are a tragedy waiting to happen, because they must function in a world of jealousy and meanness, of carnal appetites and temptation - where men with money have power over those without in a time when options were few.

The story was made into movies in 1939, 1981 (MTV) and 1992, starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. in the early version, Robert Blake and Randy Quaid in the TV production and Gary Sinise and John Malkovich in the most recent edition. The book was also made into a musical.

This interactive CD-ROM is probably in the vanguard of how classics may be read, studied and analyzed in the near future. The full text is available, but each chapter opens with a scene from the 1992 movie.

In addition, there are video interviews with the Nobel Prize-winning author's widow, Elaine Steinbeck; with Steinbeck scholar Robert Morsberge r; and with Steinbeck biographer Jackson Benson, along with the complete text of Benson's "The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer."

There is also extensive commentary by scholars Susan Shillinglaw and Tetsumaro Hayashi, photo montages of Steinbeck's private and public lives, and a descriptive narration of "The Bindlestiff's Diary," a fictional work based on the journal of Mel Thatcher, a bindlestiff (hobo) who traveled with his wife as a migrant worker in the 1920s.

In spite of all the options, I was taken unawares the first time narrator "Bindle" walked out of the wings, hung a leg over the picture frame surrounding the text and began chatting. …

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