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Cannery Row


My Friend Jack
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Thanks to a recommendation from someone on the Reading FC site, I read this book a few weeks ago. Most enjoyable, although not the sort of thing I would usually try. I mentioned it to a colleague recently, who said that one of Steinbeck's books (I can't remember which :confused: ) was her all-time favourite.

 

Anyway, this is certainly a refreshing change from my usual diet of sci-fi, fantasy and biogs!

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The Grapes of Wrath opened my eyes to the Great American Novel and Steinbeck about 15 years ago. After TGOW I worked my way through all his novels and ended up feeling bitter and twisted that we hadn't been pointed in his direction at school. Coming from a farming background (dad, grandad & before), I related more to Tom Joad and his family than any English middle-class/boarding school tosh I'd read up to that point. Read them all - you won't be disappointed.

 

This has been my maiden post. Hi everyone.

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Welcome aboard, Fred!

 

I'm completely with you about The Grapes Of Wrath, except that I was lucky enough to read it in my teens. It had a huge influence on me, and is one of the most remarkable novels of the century.

 

As a result, I wanted to read everything else Steinbeck wrote. Like many others, I read Of Mice And Men first. Cannery Row takes a clear second place in my affections to The Grapes Of Wrath. I absolutely loved it, as a teenager, and read it voraciously. I wonder how I would react now.

 

Interestingly, my father, in his 70s, discovered Steinbeck for the first time last year, and read virtually everything he wrote in turn. So it's never too late.

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Slightly off topic, but something that I often wonder about, MD. Are you likely to re-read Steinbeck's novels? I'm 42 in a couple of weeks and I read about 30 books a year. Even if if I've loved a book and it has had an affect on me, I won't read it again. I can't do it. Do any BG posters re-read books?

 

Any older posters remember a cartoon character from (I think) the early 70's who used to hold a mouse in his hand too tightly and then moan, 'Once I had a little friend but he don't move no more!'? When I read 'Of Mice & Men' and the character (Lenny?) did the same thing I realised just how far Steinbeck had reached into popular culture. Or have I got it wrong?

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Slightly off topic, but something that I often wonder about, MD. Are you likely to re-read Steinbeck's novels? I'm 42 in a couple of weeks and I read about 30 books a year. Even if if I've loved a book and it has had an affect on me, I won't read it again. I can't do it. Do any BG posters re-read books?

 

This very topic was discussed here: http://www.bookgrouponline.com/forum/showthread.html?t=33&page=1&pp=15. You'll see that this board is divided on the issue.

 

I read TGOW a couple of times when I was young, but I haven't re-read a book for years, so the answer is probably no.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Grapes of Wrath is one of my favourite novels and I was considering re-reading it recently. However I recently purchased a set of 8 Steinbeck novels (for £7!) so I shall probably work my way through those instead. The set includes Cannery Row so I may start with that.

 

The Grapes of Wrath opened my eyes to the Great American Novel and Steinbeck about 15 years ago. After TGOW I worked my way through all his novels and ended up feeling bitter and twisted that we hadn't been pointed in his direction at school. Coming from a farming background (dad, grandad & before), I related more to Tom Joad and his family than any English middle-class/boarding school tosh I'd read up to that point. Read them all - you won't be disappointed.

 

The Joads are some of my favourite characters, their determination and spirit makes them truly memorable and I genuinely missed them when I had finished the book.

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  • 1 month later...

Go for it and read it again. I've read it in total about three times now and each time I get something out of it again.

 

My husband has a bit of a thing about my book collection and the rule now is for every bag of books that comes into the house an equal number must go out. The Steinbeck six inches had remained intact throughout all purges.

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I agree with the general consensus that Grapes of Wrath is one of the best. I'm surprised no one has mentioned East of Eden! (I'd say it's way better than Cannery Row at least.) I really like Steinbeck... but just in case you come across Travels With Charley, be warned: his fiction is way better than his non-fiction!

 

P.S. This is my first post. It's so exciting...he...he... Is there a place in these forums for new people to introduce themselves?

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I agree with the general consensus that Grapes of Wrath is one of the best. I'm surprised no one has mentioned East of Eden! (I'd say it's way better than Cannery Row at least.)

 

East of Eden is a fatastic novel, Steinbeck is an absolute master of character portrayal and I was enthralled by the intertwining stories of all the different personalities in the book.

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Hi

 

Until recently I taught in Special Needs (Learning Difficulties coupled with Emotional and Behavioural problems). I taught mostly disaffected 15 - 16 year old boys and 'Of Mice and Men' was a surefire winner. Due to their reading ability I read most of it with some of the better readers helping out and this took a good 6 weeks. We finished with a showing of the film.

 

The students could totally identify with the characters and loved the story. I think this actually earmarks Steinbeck as a GREAT writer - his universality. He deals with human problems that are still relevant today.

 

I have read TGOW as I lived in Oklahoma for a year. I haven't read 'Cannery Row' but am now inspired to do so.

 

Willow

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  • 3 weeks later...

Am I the only person in the world who didn't like Grapes of Wrath but loved everything else? I think it was the general misery of it that got to me, all that dust, and all they eat is dough! And I didn't even know what dough meant but it sounded horrible. And horrible slow deaths... I guess that was kind of the point of it. I love East of Eden though, and Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row, and the sequel which I think is called 'Sweet Thursday'. It took me about 6 months to get to the end of Travels with Charley, and I don't know why I perservered that long. And now I'm plodding my way through Villette. By the way, if you can think of a reason I should continue with Villette, let me know on the pre-1900 board!!! ;)

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  • 2 months later...

I just finished East of Eden last week and I absolutely loved it, maybe even more than Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. I think what I like most about Steinbeck is the fact that he wasn't afraid to tackle really big issues and themes, such as the Depression and the huge Biblical background that he explores in East of Eden.

What someone said earlier about re-reading books, how can you not?!?! I've got a certain set of books that I read again and again because I love them so much, but also if you've read a book a few years (or decades!) ago, then you might find you have a totally different response to it now than you did then - you might hate something you loved, love something you hated, or just find something else in the book. Although it's always exciting to discover a new book you like, you're missing out if you forget the old ones.

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  • 2 years later...

I had read Of Mice and Men a few years ago, but am now reminded how much I enjoyed Steinbeck and will be digging East of Eden out of Mount TBR!

 

Cannery Row is short, but very sweet. I found myself thinking about the characters whilst doing other things (not good for work!) and found that despite how little time the author had, I had a really clear picture of them all. It is quite a cast: about 10 or 12 main characters and a host of minor ones and the book left me feeling very involved in their lives and liking them for all some of them are rather feckless, some kind, some mixed-up.

 

Cannery Row is home to a brothel, a marine biologist who collects specimens of various sea and other creatures to order for research, a chinese grocery store (sort of Arkwright for 1930s California), a flophouse and a couple who live in an old tank from one of the sardine canneries. The book describes various events in their lives - some of which hang together and some of which don't. The point of the episodes is to illustrate the individuals and the community. It is at turns comic, tragic and wise. Some of the episodes, especially the parties (one disasterous, one successful), the ice skater breaking the record for skating at the top of a flag pole, and the frog collecting trip further north, show the extent to which the characters are flawed, but also their humanity. The most successful characters are not those which have well-paid jobs and neat houses, but are rather those who are always ready to help another in need, irrespective of how little they themselves have. It is a very moral book, and the women working in the brothel, and Dora, the madam, are arguably the most moral of all.

 

It felt good to read something so positive, almost eulogistic, in among so many books describing the dark sides of people.

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I read this a while back - I also enjoyed it a lot, particularly the characterisation.

I'm just wondering - to inform my teaching of Of Mice and Men - is a flophouse not the same thing as a brothel? I'd always assumed it was ...

 

I thought it was more like a squat. Dictionary.com tells me it is a "cheap lodging house". This makes sense in the context of the story as they rent it for a peppercorn rent indefinitely from one of the other characters; it starts out just a shelter from the elements, they sleep on the floor but one day someone brings home a broken bed and they suddenly become really "house proud", scavenging for bits of furniture. I particularly liked the story of them lugging what sounded like an American version of an Aga for five miles and sleeping with it at the side of the road. That is when it becomes known as the Palace flophouse and grill.....

 

Z

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  • 2 years later...

yet another book from steinbeck where he goes into intricate details about repairing an engine :D

 

seriously though, this is an immensely enjoyable read. it's short and it's immensely sweet. (am i plagiarising Zebra?). the characterisation is very good in it and it's very tough not to like the characthers in it

 

and then it's just an easy read.

 

a point zebra made was

 

The book describes various events in their lives - some of which hang together and some of which don't. The point of the episodes is to illustrate the individuals and the community

 

and i thoroughly agree.

 

the chapters could be stand alone vignettes i feel but together they work well.

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  • 4 years later...

First introduction to Steinbeck and I absolutely loved this, admittedly rather short, book.  ZebraMc in the initial post to this thread has covered a lot of the detail, but what I loved about this was the wonderfully eclectic mix of characters and the depiction of the neighbourhood in which they all rubbed along together.

 

There is great humour in the telling of the lives of these people, the mischief they get up to, the dilemmas that they ponder over, and the fact that what they are all trying to do really is no more than make it through each day and wonder what the next one will bring.  There is a beautiful sense of community among them and, although these are essentially individuals inhabiting the lower end of the social ladder, a strong sense of morality and right and wrong. 

 

Many of the characters are pretty feckless types, very colourful and always with a tale or story around them, or waiting to happen.  They show ingenuity within the limits of their lives and surroundings, and genuine feelings towards their fellow neighbours.  I loved the two party attempts for Doc in particular; the feeling for him that inspired them, the planning and especially the execution, wonderful. 

 

I hope that, as an introduction to Steinbeck's work, this is a good pointer, Grapes Of Wrath next, which I think will be a less light-hearted but hopefully just as inspirational tale of the human spirit.

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I loved Cannery Row, but didn't like The Grapes of Wrath as much.  The people seemed real in the former and cardboard in the latter, as I remember it.  And I was all ready to really get a lot out of it because my father's family had lost their farm in the Great Depression, although the "bad guy" in his case was the federal government, rather than the banks.  He would talk about the federal agents shooting all their cows and dumping their belongings, including his Grandmother's beloved collection of "National Geographic" magazines "in a ditch."  

 

Are you familiar with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" that the title comes from?  It was written during the Civil War and became a prominent hymn of the northern side, although the references are all to the Book of Revelation (meaning they can be manipulated to mean anything--sorry if anyone finds that comment offensive).  It's actually a very stirring melody and I think has lost its connection to the Yankees in the Civil War because we sang it when I was growing up.  

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I have just finished Cannery Row having started it only yesterday. I just could not put the book down and was only sorry that, it being such a short book, I came to the end so soon. As other readers have said it really is a collection of stories describing the "doings" of those living within a fairly poor community. I found the way that neighbours tried to help nieghbours, sometimes at cost to themselves, really uplifting. Everyone within the community seemed to be of importance to those around them and the reader got the feeling that if they could help one another in their fight through their lives they would be genuinely pleased to so.

 

 

One aspect of the book which did occur to me was the similarity of the part played within the story and community of Doc to that played by Atticus Finch within the story and community of To Kill a Mocking Bird. Although very different men and very different communities both men seemed to be looked upon almost as undeclared leaders of the community. If anyone had a problem of virtually any sort within the community of Cannery Row Doc always seemed to be the first person to whom they would turn no matter how suited or unsuited to the task he happened to be. Atticus Finch seemd to play much the role within in the Community described in TKAMB. The fact that it was Atticus who was called upon to deal with the mad dog even though there must have been others more capable of doing so kept coming to my mind while reading Cannery Row. Both men were intelligent, strong but kind men with a wonderful understanding of human nature. It would be wonderful to think that such men still exist today!

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