75 YEARS: It can sometimes be a bit discombobulating when a seminal work of literature reaches a milestone anniversary, at least for some readers. Because the nature of the seminal book is that it has become a part of our story, either as a nation or within our community or simply personally, on a very individual level. Really great books work on every level, some would argue, and they'd be correct. Look to John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," which is marking its 75th anniversary. The tale of the Joad family and their journey out of the Dust Bowl and to California reflects events of the 1930s, of course, though the beauty and heartache of the book is that anybody who has faced an epic and challenging journey of any sort can relate to some, if not all, of the family's struggles. This is how it has become a personal book -- and later film -- for so many.
THE LEGACY: But it isn't merely a realistic retelling of the past; the Joads and the migrants of the Dust Bowl era are very much a part of the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. With this in mind, a trio of artists, with the Center's involvement and support, will set out to "retrace" the journey of the Joads and the book, stopping in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and, of course, California. Their multi-state adventure starts in October.
THE ARTISTS: Playwright and director Octavio Solis, writer and artist Patricia Wakida, and filmmaker P.J. Palmer will gather stories along the way, and remembrances, with an end date in mind: May 2014. That's when the when the annual Steinbeck Festival will take place, at the Salinas-based center, and the trio's findings will form a commissioned work that will make its debut over the May 2-4, 2014 weekend.
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FOLLOW ALONG: If you want to know more about the epic-scope project, and read reports from Route 66 and the artists' stops along the journey, you can follow their progress at the 75th anniversary site for "The Grapes of Wrath." You can also, of course, visit the National Steinbeck Center ahead of May and learn more about the important book and the man behind it.