Posts Tagged ‘John Steinbeck’

This little gem was written for the entertaiment of the G.I.’s in World War Deux.  It involves some bums, prostitutes, some down-and-out people, and an incarnation of Steinbeck’s friend Ed Ricketts.Ed Ricketts, courtesy Pat Hathaway,  *www.caviews.com

Seen above^   >


The inhabitants/outcasts of Cannery Row have succumbed to the tourist trade and been gentrified. Oh well, all good things must come to an end. 

The book disburses a type of realism tinged with sentimentality that is unique to Steinbeck.  For instance when Richard Frost is with Doc, Richard Frost says “I think they’re just like anyone else. They just haven’t any money.”  Doc counters with “They could get it…They could ruin their lives and get money.  Mack has the qualities of genius.  They’re very clever if they want something.  They just know the nature of things too well to be caught in that wanting.”  From the first we find the crew of bums and lag-a-bouts headed by Mack to be the “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men” that Steinbeck makes them out to be throughout the novel.  Always meaning well, these men are almost shallow and pathetic characters that graze the earth of Monterey, California. Their salvation comes when their reputation is at its’ lowest in the Row.  After the first party Mack attempts to explain his existence to Doc: “She got out of hand,’ said Mack. ‘It don’t do no good to say I’m sorry. I been sorry all my life. This ain’t no new thing. It’s always like this…I had a wife…Same thing. Ever’thing I done turned sour. She couldn’t stand it any more. If I done a good thing it got poisoned up some way…I don’t do nothin’ but clown no more. Try to make the boys laugh.” Only when Mack proffers this attempt at a pardon, and he does speak for all the boys, does the darkness fall away and we can see a clear human, one who’s tried and tried and he and only he clearly sees how the cards lay and where he exactly fits in. It is a marvel of observation to read Chapter 21 of Cannery Row.

But as with all good things this book is over very quickly and one must re-read it in order to better appreciate it.  The eminent Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw, whom I consult through her writings on all things Steinbeck, has this to say of the book: “In 1945, however, few reviewers recognized that the book’s central metaphor, the tide pool, suggested a way to read this non-teleological novel that examined the “specimens” who lived on Monterey’s Cannery Row, the street Steinbeck knew so well.”  Here we have a great summation of the novel, Doc’s tireless collecting and the collection of characters that inhabit the Row are merely ornaments of the Day/Night terrestrial tide pool that Steinbeck so lovingly inspected.


Some links for further reading:



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The article in question is located here: http://www.slate.com/id/2084913/

The Slate article above, though it is from 2003, raises some interesting questions. First, thank you Oprah for selecting that novel for your book club. I salute you and your cultural authority, if only this once. Second, Steinbeck is vastly underrated compared to his boozy counterparts-namely Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Hemingway. Steinbeck is about as underrated as Joyce is overrated. “Hunh, you’re crazy Evankerry, why would you write such mush.” Well, lets see, on my scale the clarity of Steinbeck is far heavier than the stuff  Joyce dictated towards the end of his life. But anyways the essence of the Slate article is summed up in this sentence: “Even if you concede that Steinbeck produced his best work in the 1930s, especially during a short hot streak from 1935 to 1939, when he published Tortilla Flat, In Dubious Battle, The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, The Long Valley, and The Grapes of Wrath, that’s better work than most writers ever dream of.” Did you read that clearly, ‘ever dream of’, Ladies and Gentlemen I think Steinbeck is a top contender for the undisputed heavyweight of 20th century American literature. Please comment and tell me who you think is better and why? I’m dying to know.

Back to the article, so yeah John did put out some crappy books, but who hasn’t. I mean I haven’t even finished my first one, so who am I to complain about Joyce and his moderniste agenda. Steinbeck is too simply read they’ll say. Well, I won’t even get into the literaryness of a given thing, just take my word for it Steinbeck is a giant, the pride of the pride if you will. And that about sums up this post, if you are into Steinbeck like I am you might want to get your hands on this book:

Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews – available at Google Books >>>>>>>


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