By MICHAEL CAINES
If you can skip past my inept introduction (only a couple of minutes, and then you get to the experts, as previously mentioned on this blog), here's the audio evidence of a discussion I chaired last month at the LSE. The subject of this debate, now a podcast, was The Grapes of Wrath, as well as questions of "wrath" – meaning the kind of righteous anger inspired by, say, extreme social inequality, racism, or sexism, and how it is expressed in literature today. There are novelists working now, somebody insisted, who share Steinbeck's sense of outrage – but could a novel have the same impact now that this book did in 1939?
Thanks to some differences of opinion on the panel itself and some excellent contributions from audience members, it turned out to be a lively and wide-ranging discussion. And it's one that will go on, in other forms and in other places, throughout this seventy-fifth anniversary year, particularly in the state (in Bakersfield and Salinas), where the Joads wind up, the family disintegrating under the sheer impoverishing pressure of the inhuman forces that drive them off their own small patch of Oklahoma.
Penguin, meanwhile, are reissuing the novel alongside several other Steinbecks. I like Jim Stoddardt's characteristically striking cover designs (here's TLS fiction co-editor Toby Lichtig, by the way, talking about book covers, also at the LSE: Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover); I'm not so sure about their decision, if that's what it was, to reprint the introduction by Robert DeMott without his name attached. But maybe that's a different debate.