September Song, September 4, 2011 (view all comments by September Song)
Although John Steinbeck wrote many great works of American literature Cannery Row is my favorite by far.
This short tale of the inhabitants of a stretch of industrial property on the coast of California is a rich little comic gem that Steinbeck lifts briefly into the Summer sun so that we might glimpse a society different from, but not entirely unlike, our own.
Though it's not socially revolutionary like The Grapes of Wrath, nor the genesis of a Hollywood blockbuster like East of Eden, it is told with such precision and with such affection and respect for its ragtag cast of characters that the reader feels privileged to have met them.
Mack and the boys are not bums and drunkards but "gentlemen and philosophers united by a common dislike of a steady job and a mutual feeling for the pleasures of living according to their lights" and Doc, the main character, is "half-Christ and and half-satyr" as he collects his marine and terrestrial fauna for sale to scientific laboratories while unofficially ministering to the sick puppies, lost children and unhappy souls on the Row.
You must be somewhat slipshod in your own morals to like this book, it's not for the ramrod stiff among us. As Lewis Gannet wrote: "It does not rank cleanliness next to godliness, and its everyday vocabulary takes four-letter words in its Elizabethan stride". And there are whores, but you must be able to see them as sisters and daughters with dreams of their own, and better places to be in time.
And so I invite you, after the busy canneries shut their doors in the late afternoon. Come out with the boys to sit on the rusty pipes in the vacant lot, watch as the girl's emerge from Dora's "for a bit of sun if there is any", cross the street to Lee Chong's for a couple of quarts of beer and take them over to Western Biological to see if Doc is in.
MWHS Monty, May 5, 2010 (view all comments by MWHS Monty)
May 3rd 2010
John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row is a novel that tells an interesting story. It has parties and fish and beaches and whores and Asian immigrants and of course, a Palace Flophouse. Now what in the heck is a Palace Flophouse? To most it means nothing, but to the town of Monterey California, it means something completely different.
Monterey is a small fishing town on the coast of California. It has canneries lined up and down its coast alongside laboratories and eventually hills that lead up to the rich folk’s homes. The book focuses mainly on the towns commoners and the poor. It main characters include Mack and his gang, Lee Chong who owns the local grocery store, Doc who owns that laboratory and is very well liked and respected by everyone in Monterey, and the owner of the Bear Flag Dora Flood. As the story moves along we get to know these people much more in depth and who they are and what their function is in the town.
One of the main goals of this book is to retell the story of Monterey and to bring the reader into the canneries and into the lives of the people. This main goal is successfully achieved by Steinbeck. One element in the book that should have been included was the rich folks who live on top of the hill. This could have made the story much more complex and could have added more meaning and themes. Ideas such as authority figures and power struggle could easily be incorporated into the novel’s contents. The book as a whole is convincing and made believable. There are instances within the book when you feel as if in Cannery Row, and in the Palace Flophouse or in Lee Chong’s store. This is brilliantly done by Steinbeck to create a book that has validity and entertainment.
I would highly recommend this book to everyone. It’s a fairly quick read for the entertainment seekers out there looking for a good story. It also offers a much more challenging read for those looking for specific uses of language and literary elements. This book is literally filled with similes, metaphors, imagery, and much more from cover to cover. It appeals to both genders and anyone old enough to comprehend things such as alcohol use and a whore house. This book will stay with me for the next years to come. It reminds me to stay positive and focus on the bright side of life. Things can always be worse, even when down and out, be thankful for what you have. Enjoy the little thing more often! Everyone can learn from this idea presented in the book.
This book is great for anyone looking for a new and exciting book to read. It has many intriguing characters within its contents and does a fantastic job of putting the reader in California. It achieves its main goal of providing entertainment to its readers. Pick it up next time you’re looking for a great book!
CINDY PICKLE, February 25, 2008 (view all comments by CINDY PICKLE)
this story is a joy to read. the character of doc is based
on steinbeck's close friend ed ricketts, who by all accounts was truely admired by all. if you visit cannery row (monterey, ca.) today you
will see a bust of dr. ricketts with a lovely plaque dedicated to him by an entire commity who loved him.
it's located on the remaing small patch of train tracks
where dr. ricketts lost his life.
the book cortez is an account of steinbeck and rickettes' travels around the baja studying marine life.
if you ever go there take a copy of cortez with you. i did and it was awesome!
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crowyhead, February 4, 2008 (view all comments by crowyhead)
Did you know that John Steinbeck can be really freaking hilarious? I had no idea. I think my only previous exposure had been The Pearl and Of Mice and Men, neither of which are exactly lighthearted reads. Cannery Row, though, has probably just joined my list of top ten favorite books. It tells the story of the folks, based on individuals Steinbeck actually knew, who live around the canneries of Monterey. At first it feels more like a series of character sketches than anything else -- to name a few: there's Mack and the Boys, good-natured idlers who do just enough work to keep themselves in booze; there's Henri, who fancies himself an artist and is building a boat that he will never finish; Dora Flood, the local madame; Lee Chong, who runs the grocery store and engages in near-constant battles of wits with Mack; and there's Doc, who lives and works at Western Biological Laboratories, and who is nearly universally liked by the other denizens of Cannery Row. It's this warm feeling folks have for Doc that actually drives the plot of the novel, which forms somewhat organically along the way. Since Doc has done so much for everyone, Mack figures, why don't they throw him a party to show their appreciation? The result is hilarious, disasterous, and in the end, just absolutely beautiful.
Honestly, if you think you don't like John Steinbeck, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book off the shelf at your library. Open to a chapter, any chapter, and start reading. If you can get through the chapter without either sitting down to finish the whole book, or running to the check-out counter to take it home, then, well, there might be something wrong with you.
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Drawing characters based on his memories of real inhabitants of Monterey, Steinbeck interweaves the stories of Doc, Henri, Mack, and his boys, in a world where only the fittest survive, in a novel that focuses on the acceptance of life as it is — a story at once humorous and poignant.
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