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The Moon is Down

In light of what I wrote about earlier today, I strongly recommend that everybody — every one of us — read John Steinbeck’s short, and now almost forgotten, 1942 novel The Moon is Down.

Here’s the only free copy I could find online. Not a great one.

UPDATE: That indefatigable archivist, Bill St. Clair, has put a much more attractive and easily readable version online. According to commenter Woody, Bill’s version can also be ported to Kindle and other devices (if you have Caliber software). Thank you, Bill!

And here it is from Amazon in Kindle, hardback, paperback, and even (strangely enough) audiocassette.

The Moon is Down is a war story of an unusual kind. It’s set almost entirely in living rooms and drawing rooms, with the violence offstage. It’s about what happens when ordinary, peaceable people are conquered — but not defeated — by an invader. What happens when a top-down organization that prides itself on its superiority and meticulous planning meets that most unknowable of all things … the ordinary individual.



  1. Knitebane
    Knitebane January 30, 2013 11:06 am

    I’ll just do a quick spoiler…


    There, you are spared from reading anything by Steinbeck.

  2. Water Lily
    Water Lily January 30, 2013 11:10 am

    Thanks, Claire. Steinbeck is depressing, but what a writer!

  3. Claire
    Claire January 30, 2013 11:10 am

    Cynic. πŸ™‚

    Yeah, Steinbeck did have a habit of putting his characters through hell and not redeeming them with happy endings. But I guarantee you that, while there’s plenty of death in “The Moon is Down,” I don’t think anybody would consider the ending downbeat, even though …

    Well, just say it’s worth reading for a good dose of hope.

  4. Claire
    Claire January 30, 2013 11:15 am

    Water Lily — I agree.

    He was a huge favorite when I was in my teens. Haven’t read much of him since, but going through a collection of his short novels I’m impressed all over again (and also surprised to find how much I remember of books I haven’t read in years; I guess tormenting your characters is good for creating memories). He was so eloquent, yet his writing is so simple, too. Anybody can read and understand Steinbeck. Can’t say that about a lot of other Nobel Prize-winning novelists.

  5. Matt, another
    Matt, another January 30, 2013 1:21 pm

    I’ll find a copy and read it. Steinbeck has traveled with me on many adventures. I have been in a few places where the only english language books to be found were Steinbecks and Ian Fleming. Most enjoyed was Travels with Charlie and Cannery Row. I thought he did a good job of capturing America as it was at those times.

  6. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember January 30, 2013 1:22 pm

    It was interesting, and yeah, the ending wasn’t downbeat. Quite the opposite.

    I’m glad I didn’t listen to Knitebane. The towns-people didn’t All die, so I wonder about the motivation of a Person like that.

  7. Claire
    Claire January 30, 2013 1:31 pm

    IAM — That was quick. And glad you liked it. Knitebane was right, though. Steinbeck had a real habit of getting readers attached to his characters, then doing something irredeemably horrible to them.

    Matt, another — for me it was East of Eden (actually both movie and book). And yeah, he was great at capturing location, particularly parts of California before it got Californicated.

    I thought I’d read most of his stuff, but I completely missed The Moon is Down until now.

  8. Matt, another
    Matt, another January 30, 2013 3:28 pm

    Just finished The Moon is Down. Excellent read, some very good points made about tyranny and freedom, lots of food for thought.

  9. Joel
    Joel January 30, 2013 3:53 pm

    “The people don’t like to be conquered, sir, and so they will not be. Free men cannot start a war, but once it is started, they can fight on in defeat. Herd men, followers of a leader, cannot do that, and so it is always the herd men who win battles and the free men who win wars. You will find that is so, sir.”

    Good read, Claire. Thanks – I’d never heard of it, not being much of a Steinbeck fan.

  10. jed
    jed January 30, 2013 5:15 pm

    Found at the library — I’ll have it Saturday.

    If I’ve ever read Steinbeck, I don’t recall it. But then I haven’t read most of what would be considered classic English literature. I can’t keep up with all the SciFi authors I like as it is, without adding more books to the pile. I’ve heard some of it is worthwhile. πŸ˜‰

  11. Cliff
    Cliff January 30, 2013 7:23 pm

    Thank you. I had never read it. Now I’m glad I did.

  12. Woody
    Woody January 31, 2013 7:17 am

    It was a good read to start the day. Thank you. I have always liked Steinbeck and I don’t know how I escaped reading this one. Thanks again.

  13. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember January 31, 2013 8:01 am

    I knew a little about Steinbeck, I’ve read Of Mice and Men,… still, Annie didn’t die, those who escaped by boat didn’t die, etc… And of those who did die, I guess I missed the agony part. Seemed kind of calm.

    Reminds me of an Asian saying, of happiness and success:

    Grandfather dies.
    Father dies.
    Son dies.
    Grandson dies.

    I’m thinking that People similar in thought to Knitebane would say that is a terrible list. Forrest meet trees?

  14. R.L. Wurdack
    R.L. Wurdack January 31, 2013 8:42 am

    I met Steinbeck while I was in Viet Nam. He came over to visit the troops. Not as popular as Bob Hope or Ann Margaret, but a formadible intellect. He wandered in dressed like a Pacific Nothwesterner in boots flannel and 501s, grabbed a steel tray, stood through the chow line and sat down to breakfast whth 3 or 4 of us grunts. I’ve read everything of his that is in print and while some of it rips at you it has a human reality that’s hard to equal.

    We are very close to our own modern “”Grapes of Wrath.””

  15. Woody
    Woody January 31, 2013 9:04 am

    Thanks to Bill St. Clair his file can be imported into Calibre and converted to Kindle or any other ebook format. If you have an e-reader it makes it very convenient to read.

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