Steinbeckathon 2012: Cannery Row

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Steinbeckathon 2012: Cannery Row

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Editat: gen. 3, 2012, 1:02pm

"Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses." - John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

This is the discussion thread for John Steinbeck's Cannery Row.
Spoilers are welcome, but please indicate them in your message out of
respect for those who are reading at a different pace. Enjoy!

Steinbeckathon main thread:

gen. 2, 2012, 10:32pm

I guess I better get my hands on a copy!

gen. 2, 2012, 11:58pm

Chelle, I had a copy of Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row which I had gotten from BookMooch, but it was a really ugly edition (something I wasn't aware of before asking for it) and since these are books that I intend to keep, I ordered The Short Novels of John Steinbeck (cover on the right), which ended up cheaper than buying those novels I was missing separately i.e. Tortilla Flat and The Moon is Down. You might want to look into it.

gen. 3, 2012, 2:15am

ooo I read this book a few months ago. I love how Steinbeck writes! Quotes like the one above make me want to go grab another of his books!

gen. 3, 2012, 7:04am

I read the Kindle sample (chapter 1 and 2 pages of chapter 2) and found the language beautiful. Still have to decide whether to buy the full Kindle version or to get the (free) Italian "Vicolo Cannery" from my library. According to the catalogue it's stored in their magazine, not even on the shelf, this means that for years no-one has taken out the poor book. I'm sure it would be happy to see some daylight.
At least they have The Grapes of Wrath in English.

(Btw. has anyone else noticed that something seems to be wrong with the touchstones lately? TGoW leads to a book by John Ford, owned by 69 members, not to the Steinbeck with 17,392 copies on LT. It's the same with North and South and even King Lear.)

gen. 3, 2012, 7:58am

Minor spoilers

I read this in high school when I was in love with Steinbeck. Tried to re-read it a couple of years ago because I'd heard he based it on the Arthurian legends. Couldn't get past the misogyny to read it all the way through. I'm going to lurk and see if I can find a way to approach it that doesn't make me want to scream and throw it across the room.

gen. 3, 2012, 9:16am

Love the quote and covers, Ilana!

I just started this, and it's very good so far, although certainly male-oriented. Haven't run into misogyny yet, although it won't surprise me if Dora's harbors some.

I liked Of Mice and Men, then got turned off of him by East of Eden. (Which many people love). The Log of the Sea of Cortez restored my interest, and it has some links to this one.

Editat: gen. 3, 2012, 10:05am

Joe, I'm glad you mentioned you didn't like East of Eden that much. It was just an OK read for me and it was the first and only book I've read of his so I've been lukewarm about participating in the Steinbeckathon but maybe I just started with the wrong book.

ETA: I just ordered a copy of Cannery Row from Amazon so I'm planning to read it with you guys this month. Not sure how soon I'll start--probably next week sometime.

gen. 3, 2012, 11:06am

Thanks Ilana, I'll look for a combined book then since we will be reading more than one this year!

gen. 3, 2012, 11:53am

#7 Love the quote and covers, Ilana!

I had fun putting it all together Joe. Ever the designer at heart!

#9 Chelle, I bought that book online and got a good price for it, which made it worth it, especially since I would have had to purchase two books to complete the short novels collection I already have by him. You might want to look it up at ChaptersIndigo which is where I got it.

gen. 3, 2012, 12:33pm

I've got a Kindle copy of Cannery Row and expect to start it, most likely, sometime next week.

Looking forward to it.

gen. 3, 2012, 12:53pm

>8 phebj: Glad that was helpful, Pat. I know Of Mice and Men and The Log from the Sea of Cortez are both really good, and I'm liking Cannery Row so far. East of Eden - no thanks.

gen. 3, 2012, 1:00pm

I fell in love with East of Eden before I'd actually read it because I was in love with James Dean as a teenager and saw the movie first. I don't remember much about it, because I kept staring at his mug and not paying much attention to the story, which seemed rather depressing. But shortly after I read the book and thought it was great. This is ages ago now, and I don't remember a thing about it, so we'll see how it goes once we get to it in July.

gen. 3, 2012, 2:09pm

This is wonderful. Thank you, Ilana!

In keeping with Madeline's TIOLI challenge for January, I'm determined to read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn before I read Cannery Row, so it will be the second half of the month for me to do this one.

gen. 3, 2012, 2:12pm

Whenever you're reading Ellen, we'll be here. I'm currently reading Bel Canto and want to get through that first, unless I break down and decide to read Cannery Row at the same time...

Editat: gen. 4, 2012, 1:36pm

I plan on reading Cannery Row later in the month, so will star this thread to return to. I had meant to read it last June when I was actually in Monterey, CA and stayed on Cannery Row but I forgot to pack the book!

gen. 4, 2012, 2:27pm

I'm getting a kick out of it. The chapter on the slightly off kilter Frankie was a stunner.

gen. 4, 2012, 2:49pm

Am just about to start re-reading Cannery Row after some 40 years or more. For a lot of that time it's been a desire of mine to visit there, but now it seems unlikely ever to happen and perhaps, for the reasons I posted in the main thread of this -thon, it would be just as well. Or is that just sour grapes on my part?

>16 katiekrug:, katiekrug: as you recently stayed there, how about telling us your thoughts about it, both before and after you read the book.

gen. 7, 2012, 11:16am

I now read half of my Vicolo Cannery, and so far I love it. I like it much better than Of Mice and Men where I had some problems with the Lennie character. I like it that so far there isn't so much plot, that it's more observing the day-to-day life of the various interesting characters. And the descriptions of the fauna are stunning - the chapter with Hazel catching starfish, but also the evening scene at the Carmel river.

gen. 7, 2012, 11:24am

Cannery Row: I loved it! Should I just leave it at that? This has become my favorite of his overnight.

I love Doc's music, I love the poetry Doc quotes, Mack and the boys are hilarious, Frankie's a heartbreaker, and on and on. And then you have wonderful silly stuff like beer milkshakes and frogs in the night. And always the sea nearby, with its wild abundance of life, and that life's frequent craftiness and casual viciousness in obtaining the next meal. Fantastic. Thanks, Ilana, for organizing this part of the Steinbeckathon. I'm really happy about finally having read this.

Editat: gen. 9, 2012, 5:29pm

Just finished chapter 3 and I have to admit that I struggled with the beginning. His voice isn't talking to me yet, but I'm determined to give it a decent chance.

gen. 7, 2012, 12:20pm

I've read the first five chapters and I'm loving it too. It's got me enthused to continue on with the whole Steinbeckathon. Maybe I'll even give East of Eden another try. I read on Wikipedia that Steinbeck considered EofE his best work and I can see similarities in some of the characters (Dora and Lee Chong in particular seem familiar).

Thanks Ilana, Mark and Ellen for organizing this. I'm not sure I would have given Steinbeck another try if not for this focus on his work.

gen. 7, 2012, 12:25pm

I started the other day and I'm only a few chapters in but I'm loving his language and his flair. Previously I've only read Of Mice and Men (which I loved) and had several aborted attempts at Grapes of Wrath (which I hated), so it's brilliant to find myself enjoying this one.

gen. 7, 2012, 1:01pm

Finished last night, and here's my review from my thread:

It is truly amazing what one can pick up about a classic story without ever having read the book. I knew a lot about Doc and his business of collecting wildlife. And I knew how the upstanding citizens of Monterey were scandalized when the book came out--they would have ridden Steinbeck out of town on a rail could they have caught him for depicting their town as such scummy low-life! But I had never actually read the book, and now, thanks to the Steinbeckathon, I have! I loved the meandering anecdotes, building a sense of a place and time without ever really having a plot, simply a depiction to savor and enjoy. And what language, really! Describing early morning at the beginning of Chapter 14 (and the whole paragraph is filled with images),

"Cats drip over the fences and slither like syrup over the ground to look for fish heads."

A great place to visit!

gen. 8, 2012, 7:53am

Roni, that's the exact same quote I noted in my journal!

I loved the language of this book - especially when JS is writing about Nature. Loved the hunting frogs part and all the bits about the ocean (and I don't even like the ocean very much).

It may be that he writes equally beautifully about his people, but it is hard for me to get past the fact that I don't like his people very well. He seems to love these people for their flaws and I have to wonder if he has issues with the part of the population that is not so hugely flawed. (Wish I knew more about JS - maybe I need a good biography. Is there one out there?)

Just the same, however, he is a wonderful writer and while I am not clapping my hands together over the prospect of the next JS book, I am pretty sure that it will be another beautifully written one and that I will be happy that I read it.

gen. 8, 2012, 8:28am

Here's an intriguing, short, npr article about Doc, Ed Ricketts, that mirrordrum supplied:

gen. 8, 2012, 3:15pm

Finished it and absolutely loved it! Wonderful ending. Compared to Of Mice and Men I found the characters quite likeable. Flawed - yes, but not too much (still can't get over Lennie in OMaM).
Okay, I don't really need a Mack and his gang in my life. But Doc is such a wonderful character.
I am so glad I didn't give up on Steinbeck yet after my first try!

gen. 8, 2012, 10:01pm

I've downloaded an audio edition of CR from, so it will keep me company on my walks and at the gym this month.

gen. 8, 2012, 10:56pm

I read this last summer while I was visiting San Fransisco, which is physically close, but a million miles away. I wasn't expected to like it, but it was a wonderful surprise, and I loved it. My copy is heavily underlined (including that sentence about the dripping cats in post 24). It was one of my favourite books of 2011. I read Of Mice and Men many years ago in high school, and East of Eden back in the 80s, and I thought I was done with Steinbeck. But after this I want to read a lot more--I might even get the courage to read The Grapes of Wrath.

gen. 8, 2012, 11:40pm

I am on chapter five and have just figured out that this is not a plot-driven book! Now that I have had my epiphany, I can sit back and enjoy the beautiful descriptive passages and wonderful characters.

gen. 10, 2012, 3:16pm

I'm hoping to start Cannery Row by the weekend. I tried not to read too many posts (so as to avoid spoilers) but, Berly, it is good to know that it's not a plot-driven book.

gen. 10, 2012, 5:04pm

I skipped over a few posts here too. I'm a little over halfway through. I've read the part about the party Mack throws for Doc. Yikes! It was bound to go bad, but it sure came unexpectedly. I feel so sorry for Doc. The thought of beer milkshakes makes me feel queazy.

Thanks to Joe, who gave me a link to show me what a boiler was like. That was early on in the story, but it kept nagging at me and I was wondering how a person, let alone two people could actually live in one, so it was very helpful.

gen. 10, 2012, 5:26pm

Thanks for the link, Ilana. I actually loved that part about the boiler and to think they had tenants as well in the connecting pipes!

gen. 10, 2012, 7:15pm

Great link Ilana! And now I understand how the Mrs. could even want curtains, LOL! I am right in the middle of earning money for Doc's party and had no illusions it would go well!!

gen. 10, 2012, 8:03pm

This is a re-read for me - the first reading was many years ago. I liked it then, but being a more mature reader - I love it now. Have only gotten to about chapter 7. This will be my upstairs book for bedtime reading so I can savor it. :)

Ah yes - everyone wants to do something nice for Doc...

gen. 11, 2012, 12:05am

My copy just came into the library and I picked it up last night... I have a few other books I'm reading that I would like to finish first but then I'm excited to get started on Cannery Row.

gen. 11, 2012, 3:43am

I'm up to chapter 14 and I have to say it's by far my favourite Steinbeck to date - the language is amazing. There was a line I read last night about cats dripping over fences. Brilliant.

Editat: gen. 11, 2012, 9:57am

I will start Cannery Row today. I've been sort of skimming posts here, trying to avoid any incidental spoilers --- by tomorrow, I should be able to join in some discussion. :-)

gen. 11, 2012, 10:04am

>32 Smiler69: I'm glad the link to the boiler was helpful, Ilana. I'd like to visit Monterey and see that Steinbeck Center and what they've preserved from Cannery Row.

gen. 11, 2012, 10:11am

#39 Me too, Joe! I'm already talking up a trip to Monterey to my husband for next year after I've read more of Steinbeck's books. Maybe we could do an LT meetup at the Steinbeck Center!

gen. 11, 2012, 10:23am

>40 phebj: Wouldn't that be great, Pat? I'm all for it!

gen. 11, 2012, 1:37pm

Just reading along and loved this line - "Dora was having trouble with her income tax, for she was entangled in that curious enigma which said the business was illegal and then taxed her for it."

So very true...

Editat: gen. 12, 2012, 3:10am

Started reading this evening -- up to chapter 7 and I'm loving it. Steinbeck's descriptions of people and of spaces are really wonderful. He captures the smell and texture of a physical space more vividly than I have encountered in a long time.

Editat: gen. 12, 2012, 1:10pm

Why I like this author:
Steinbeck looks deeper than actions, recognizes intent, and does not begrudge forgiveness... eg Doc's party. He embraces the good in people and I like that.

He just makes me feel better about the human condition ... the potential of acceptance without bitterness or the need to control.

He also sees the heroic in the ordinary... eg, the response to the flu epidemic.

gen. 12, 2012, 10:47am

I just read Chapter 14. Beautiful.

I wish I didn't have to go to work so I could just sit on the couch and finish this wonderful little novel.

gen. 12, 2012, 11:11am

#44 Claudia, I loved reading your comments and wholeheartedly agree with them.

gen. 12, 2012, 12:03pm

I finished reading it yesterday and love how it finished on such a (literally) poetic note. This is one I'll definitely have to revisit more than once in future!

gen. 12, 2012, 1:09pm

What a beautiful novel to start off the Steinbeck-athon!
I will raise my previous rating from a 4 to 4.5
Second reading = more insight

Why I liked this book:
Very poetic indeed.
Imagery - stunning and clear
Characters - a study in individuality/community, weak/strong
Point of view/insight - compassionate and heartbreaking
Conflicts - destruction, compromise and resolution
Hope and comfort in misfortune

Great read!

Editat: gen. 12, 2012, 10:42pm

Cee, I echo Pat in wholeheartedly agreeing with your assesment of Steinbeck. Well put.

I became a Steinbeck fan in my early 20's. It's now been many years since I read Cannery Row, but I do remember loving the imagery.

Sandy K

gen. 13, 2012, 5:08am

Another nod of agreement from me. I finished it last night and thoroughly adored it. The language is stunningly evocative and parts were so heartrending. Yet it's so simply done. Big thumbs up from me - and I actually find I want to read more Steinbeck now which, considering my ongoing difficulties with Grapes of Wrath, is something I never thought I'd say.

From the blurb at the end of my book, I'm now looking forward to returning to Monterey inTortilla Flat.

gen. 14, 2012, 12:34am

I finished Cannery Row just now. Really enjoyed this simple, yet beautiful, writing.

Now I'm eager to read Sweet Thursday, the sequel to Cannery Row. I think this is our December book.

Not much else to say about it.

gen. 14, 2012, 3:10pm

44, 48> So well-put. I completed reading it last night and here are some of my thoughts (that echo yours):

I loved:

-- Steinbeck's clean and elegant (and yes, poetic!) prose, his descriptions of setting and of people -- especially his descriptions of characters who only briefly people the narrative, add to its depth and vividness, but who don't actually advance the story,
-- his deep compassion and insight into the good hearts of men overcome by their addiction to booze,
-- his descriptions of the internal experience of dogs, cats, gophers, mice..... but without sentimentality or anthropomorphizing, and
-- the fact that he added to the cast of characters who will stay with me, who have become real: Mack, Doc, Lee Chong -- they feel so real.

gen. 14, 2012, 10:44pm

You people are making it harder and harder for me to think up any sort of passable review that won't just be rehashing what you've already said in your excellent observations. This is a big problem. I may have to skip reviewing this novel altogether, which is something I never do...

gen. 15, 2012, 9:34am

53: When I want to "review" something and have nothing new to say, I stick it in my comment field. That way I have my own view recorded for myself but no one has to wade through it looking for new insights.

gen. 15, 2012, 11:05am

Hi Ilana!
"I may have to skip reviewing this novel altogether, which is something I never do..."

Here's a challenge for you - see if you can do it! ;-)

gen. 15, 2012, 12:21pm

#54 Thanks for the suggestion. I think I'll follow up on it. I might have had something to say, but reading everyone's comments has influenced me too much at this point.

#55 Here's a challenge for you - see if you can do it!

Now that you put it like that Claudia, I'm just going to have to show you I can, won't I?

gen. 15, 2012, 12:23pm

I just realized now that my latest comments aren't helping much in the way of stimulating group discussion. I'm sorry about that, and please ignore me altogether and keep chatting! :-)

gen. 15, 2012, 1:13pm

Ignore you my dear? Not possible. ;-)

Really, reading this book is an experience.
It's not all that long and worth the ride.
It's the reading that's important here.
And you got us to do it, Ilana! Thanks!

gen. 15, 2012, 3:46pm

Ilana: What Claudia said.

And thank you, aulsmith, for the idea. I hadn't noticed the "comments" field, which will allow for comments to help me remember a book without worrying about others reading my sometimes eloquent and sometimes banal comments! :-)

Editat: gen. 15, 2012, 5:51pm

If I wasn't grossly overbooked, as I always am, I like to plunge right back into Cannery Row because for some reason it took a few chapters before I started getting a sense of it, and because of that I think I missed a lot. I was reading beautiful prose but not fully appreciating it while I was trying to get the lay of the land. Does that make sense? And then about halfway through I couldn't get enough of it, and by then end felt sad parting with it. I love it when a book grows on me like that and makes me want to start all over.

gen. 15, 2012, 5:04pm

I just finished Cannery Row, and wanted to thank whoever it was who decided to choose it -- and the year-long Steinbeck-a-thon, or the book might have languished forever in its lonely pile, and I would be the poorer for it. So wonderful. I loved Steinbeck's lovely language, and his tenderness and affection for the characters.

gen. 15, 2012, 6:19pm

Ilana, your comments completely resonate for me. It took me a while to get "the feel" of the prose and the story. I will certainly re-read it, but perhaps not immediately.

Anne, glad you've joined us and that your reading of Cannery Row was as positive an experience as for so many of us.

Has anyone not liked this little novel yet?

gen. 15, 2012, 6:25pm

Well, as I said in comment 6, I couldn't get past page 10 the last time I tried it. I'm not much of one for lovely language; it's characters that get me, and this time the women just seemed such stereotypes. Though reading all the comments, I can see why I liked it in high school.

gen. 16, 2012, 12:14pm

I started Cannery Row last night and got 10 chapters in already. It's quite good and I'm looking forward to reading more tonight

gen. 16, 2012, 1:44pm

Glad you're also enjoying it, Chelle! We picked a winner to start our year-long adventure. :-)

Editat: gen. 16, 2012, 3:00pm

Has anyone not liked this little novel yet?

I was wondering that too! I firmly believe that there is no one book that appeals to every reader. So . . . if one were to dislike this book, what is it that they would dislike?

I was dubious when I picked it up . . . after all, isn't Steinbeck very grim? And a mid-twentieth century novel written by an American male, telling stories about the underclass in some poor small town--sounds dreadful to me. But from the first paragraph I was enthralled. His sentences were so elegant, yet simple. And he brought such heart and empathy to his characters. Just wonderful.

gen. 16, 2012, 7:43pm

#66 Joyce, I loved your comment. It's amazing how, in the hands of a hugely talented writer, even the most depressing topics can just sing. Best of all, he makes it look so easy, which I'm sure is a hard thing to do. I always think of ballet dancers, the truly great ones—how they can execute the most incredible routines and make it look effortless. That takes a lot of hard work and huge talent.

gen. 16, 2012, 9:59pm

I really did enjoy Cannery Row. It was a re-read for me. I first read it several years ago. My wife could not understand why I would ever pick up Steinbeck "for fun." But then I had her read East of Eden. . .

I will say that I thought Cannery Row thought slowed down a bit at the end.

gen. 17, 2012, 1:29am

68: I'm really looking forward to reading East of Eden when we get to it. I've had it on my shelves for a couple of years, ever since some dear friends told me I "had to" read it. We'll see.

gen. 17, 2012, 5:37pm

#67. Ilana, I love your analogy to the great ballet dancers. Perfect. What a great book; that's all I can say.

gen. 17, 2012, 9:23pm

Thanks Mary. I guess nowadays it would be more *with the times* to use olympic figure skaters as an analogy, but I'm old school. :-)

gen. 18, 2012, 4:25pm

Finished yesterday and loved it! I really enjoyed the part with the frog hunting and all that went with it.
My thoughts here, not a review really just a few comments.

gen. 18, 2012, 4:37pm

Great review Chelle.

I'm so stoked that so many of you decided to join in, and still more are doing so, encouraged by all the positive feedback on Cannery Row. Seems like our 'Beckathon is off to a brilliant start! :-)

gen. 18, 2012, 6:37pm

#72 I also loved the frog hunt and all that went with it, especially his description of the Carmel River, the boys' little campsite and cooking the rooster.

Editat: gen. 18, 2012, 7:04pm

Those who know me a little won't be surprised to read that for me, the frog hunt was a very sad part of the book. I'm an animal lover and don't like to read about any creature, big or small being hunted, harmed or killed.

I also have a personal sad story to do with frogs.

Looooong ago, when I was maybe 2 or 3, we were vacationing by a lake. City bound people that we were, I saw a frog for the first time. My mum said I should hold it carefully and not squeeze it, so I held it gently and observed it with big round eyes and little mouth forming and "O" for a while, but then when I'd finished looking at it, I pitched it back into the shallow water as if it was a baseball, not realizing what I was doing until the deed was done. I asked my mum if the frog was likely to have gotten hurt and she said "probably, hon" with a pitying look on her face. I've never forgiven myself for that. Silly I know, but there we have it. So of course when I read about the frog hunt, I couldn't help but be reminded of that experience.

Still to do with animals, I simply adored chapter 31 about the gopher:

"He came to the place over land and found it good and he began his burrow on a little eminence where he could look out among the mallow weeds and see the trucks go by on Cannery Row. He could watch the feet of Mack and the boys as they crossed the lot to the Palace Flophouse. As he dug down into the coal-black earth he found it even more perfect, for there were great rocks under the soil. When he made his great chamber for the storing of food it was under a rock so that it could never cave in no matter how hard it rained. It was a place where he could settle down and raise any number of families and the burrow could increase in all directions."

And then of course, no females came and he had to move away...

gen. 18, 2012, 7:25pm

Oh, Ilana, that is a sad story! Your curiosity and wonder and innocence, followed by the terribly painful lesson of how easily and accidentally one can hurt another being. :-(
I'm glad you're not one to do it on purpose, though.

I also adored the part in Cannery Row about the gopher. He became a furry little character in the story and I love the description of his work and planning --- and then the unsentimental note that he had to move away. But at least he didn't get hurt.

Editat: gen. 19, 2012, 2:04am

Well, at least it spoiler didn't take a bad ending for the frogs in CR, or at least for most of them. I think the harm being done to an animal - though involuntarily - was one of the main reasons why I didn't like Steinbeck's OMaM spoiler end
And yes, the gopher part was wonderful!

gen. 19, 2012, 9:06am

Another fan of the gopher part here. Sorry the frog part was hard for you, Ilana. Most got away in the end, but maybe that doesn't help much.

gen. 19, 2012, 2:55pm

I wish I could express myself better; about what I feel for all the great characters in this book, animal and human alike -- Doc, poor Frankie, the gopher. Next to Travels with Charley, Cannery Row is my favorite Steinbeck book. This reading was a re-read for me. I read it probably 25 years or so ago the first time and it has always stayed very close to me.

gen. 19, 2012, 8:01pm

I don't have much new to add either, but I loved Cannery Row! I did find that I was more focused on the language in some chapters and more focused on the characters and their relationships in others. This combination worked really well for me. I'm not always patient enough to appreciate books with lengthy rich descriptions, so I liked the short descriptive chapters followed by faster paced more plot-driven chapters.

gen. 19, 2012, 8:13pm

I finished the book the other day. It was a delightful re-read. I just love the command that Steinbeck has with language.

gen. 20, 2012, 9:47am

I don't get the frog problem, Ilana. I can't imagine the pitch of a toddler -of frog to water- would be harmful??? It's not like you were 6 feet off the ground or sending a pitch of 120 mph force.
I would think the frog would be glad to get back to what he knew best. I'm sure your little hand was soft and warm - but - he was a frog!
But if it makes you feel bad... don't explain it to me. I must be dense this morning. ;-)

For such a short novel, there WAS an awful lot of good stuff in Cannery Row!

gen. 20, 2012, 9:49pm

#76 Ellen, you summed it up perfectly. About the gopher, you were the first person I saw comment about him and I don't believe I made an allusion to that fact, but I was really glad that you'd appreciated that chapter too. Steinbeck is so great at observing unsentimentally isn't he?

#77 I haven't read Of Mice and Men in so long that I barely remember it. I do know we read it in high school and that I thought it was brilliant and sad.

#78 Thanks for the sympathy Joe. I'm just a big softie when it comes to animals. It's kind of ridiculous, but there you have it :-)

#79 I'm glad you enjoyed revisiting CR. I look forward to my first reading of Travels with Charley, though it'll be a while to get to is as it's scheduled in November.

#80 That's a great observation actually. Steinbeck used a similar device with Grapes of Wrath, where he alternated between longer chapters which moved the story along, with short observations on the plight of the farmers during the Great Depression. I liked the fact that he was giving us the story from the perspective of one family's experience and then giving us the bigger picture and all the ramifications as well.

#81 I keep saying this, but I look forward to reading it again. I reread a couple of my favourite chapters (the boiler and the gopher) and found it's the kind of story that can easily be picked up like that—reading any one chapter at random, which makes for a different kind of experience.

#82 Don't worry about it Claudia. One of my many neuroses, that's all. ;-)

For such a short novel, there WAS an awful lot of good stuff in Cannery Row!

Agreed. Steinbeck definitely went for quality and not quantity with this one!

gen. 21, 2012, 8:01pm

I finished Cannery Row today, doubt I'll write a formal review, plopped some comments onto my thread:

6,63 (aulsmith): Yeah. The language is gorgeous, and I'm especially drawn to the science. The attitude toward women... not so much.

gen. 21, 2012, 8:04pm

****** DANGER ****** SPOILERS****** DANGER ****** SPOILERS****** DANGER ****** SPOILERS******

Actually, I'll try not to give too much away, but I'd rather be careful than waste it for someone else.

As a self-confessed Steinbeckaphobe, I approached the book with trepidation. But I read it, I loved it, and now I can't get it out of my head. Cannery Row has changed my opinion of Steinbeck in 30 short chapters. A strange little book, where not a lot happens, but a huge amount is going on.

I find it's the background images that are sticking with me: William's realisation that he 'has to do it', even though it now seems so silly; the frogs escaping; the curtains.

I'm still wary of The Red Pony which bored me rigid and especially, The Pearl which I remember as sad and boring, but I'm much more prepared to give them a chance than I was as a 13-14 year old.

gen. 21, 2012, 8:07pm

>85 JenMacPen: "A strange little book, where not a lot happens, but a huge amount is going on. " I think you summed up the whole book quite nicely in that one little sentence!

gen. 22, 2012, 4:32pm

>85 JenMacPen: "A strange little book, where not a lot happens, but a huge amount is going on. " I think you summed up the whole book quite nicely in that one little sentence!

I finished the book yesterday. I had actually just read it for the first time a few months ago but I have no problem rereading Steinbeck.

I liked how the moments of tragedy (oh my, poor Frankie) can still be interspersed with levity (I particularly enjoyed the beer milkshake bit).

Editat: gen. 23, 2012, 1:50am

Finished Cannery Row this morning, and what a wonderful book! I recall Nickelini's comments about it last year (one of the reasons I was keen to join in on the Steinbeckathon would be her recommendation), but it wasn't at all what I expected. I think I expected a straightforward story with plot, heart, beginning-middle-and-end, etc. Which would have been great, but this was certainly far more than that.

Cracked up over all the frogs escaping. They must have been very confused frogs. :)

Beautiful language. I paused-and-reread at the cats dripping over fences, too. (And I loved how the cats were all so fat on fish heads they ignored the local gopher with his wonderful burrow.)

The descriptions of natural beauty were wonderful, and I found that quite unexpected, I thought it'd be a dreary industrial smelly location with canneries, but he showed that nature is still abundant at the sea edge, near the river, even in the vacant lot where Mack and his boys lived. I really felt I knew what it was like, he brought me right into that area of California, and I've even been Google mapping and street viewing to see what it's like now.

I wish I knew more about the music Doc listened to. I may need to do some Googling there! (And thanks to whoever posted the link about Ed Ricketts above, that was a great little background article.)

And the characters were all wonderful. I think I'd even like having Mack and his boys living locally, they were good hearted people, and I rather approve of a lifestyle which isn't about being a consumer. They did the bare minimum to get by, they did it well (well, apart from collecting frogs and/or cats for Doc), why should they do more?

Thanks for everyone for running the Steinbeckathon and I hope the other books are half this good!

gen. 24, 2012, 12:49pm

#84 Katherine, I loved your review of Cannery Row. It's amazing to me how each one of us comes away with different impressions and with different parts of the books coming to the fore in our minds. Each time I read a review, it reminds me of bits and pieces that have faded away in my memory a bit. For such a short novel where nothing's supposed to be going on, there's so much to fill the mind with!

#85 A strange little book, where not a lot happens, but a huge amount is going on.

Jen, I too thought this was a great way to sum up this book, which I tried to do much less elegantly above!

But better yet to me were the two previous sentences:

As a self-confessed Steinbeckaphobe, I approached the book with trepidation. But I read it, I loved it, and now I can't get it out of my head. Cannery Row has changed my opinion of Steinbeck in 30 short chapters.

That alone makes me so glad we decided to go ahead with the Steinbeckathon!

I haven't read The Red Pony yet, though have had that little book standing by for so long that I don't remember acquiring that particular used copy, but must say I have to strongly disagree with you about The Pearl. I read it in 2008 and was so impressed by it that it cemented my love for Steinbeck and his amazing capacity to understand the human condition and to pack so much into such little packages. Unfortunately, I wasn't as assiduous about writing reviews back then as I am now, so don't remember exactly the thoughts I came away with, though impressions from the book remain with me still, and I look forward to reading it again in November. Hope you will give it another chance then too!

#87 I had actually just read it for the first time a few months ago but I have no problem rereading Steinbeck

Music to my ears! :-)

#88 Tania, thank you so much for sharing your impressions of the book here with us. I really enjoyed reading your post. I was really thrilled when Steinbeck described one classical music album which I was familiar with, and will also look into this further eventually.

I'm glad you enjoyed this experience so much and hope you'll be joining us for as many other Steinbeck novels as you are inspired to read this year. I'm sure you'll find at least a couple more to your liking.

gen. 24, 2012, 2:52pm

So many favorable reviews of Cannery Row have made me check it out of my library. I should finish another book tonight and perhaps get to it after that. I really had no intentions of joining the Steinbeckathon, but you all make this month's read sound too good to pass up!

gen. 24, 2012, 5:22pm

I recently started an audio recording of Cannery Row, read with a Southern lilt and no hurry, which is very consonant with the text, don't you think? Enjoying it very much. It's 6 hours long, and I don't think I've listened to more than an hour's worth, but I'll be done by February. It's a reread for me - lovely and funny - had me laughing out loud on the subway.

gen. 24, 2012, 5:53pm

Glad to have struck a chord, folks :-)

#89 Ilana, so far as The Pearl is concerned, it was a forced reading, age 14, with a number of supply teachers who thought we were obnoxious teenagers with too much to say for ourselves (we probably were, actually :-) ). Poor book didn't stand a chance. The Red Pony was also a school read, but two years earlier.

X number of years later, with my own family, I imagine I'll empathise a lot more with it. I certainly intend to read it, and I'll fess up, no matter what I think at the end of it.

I think sometimes you're just the wrong age for a book. I detested Catcher in the Rye, which I reckon has a lot to do with being in my twenties at the time and wanting the little brat to just GROW UP! - but maybe that's a complaint for a different thread :-)

gen. 24, 2012, 6:27pm

Meant to add that I'd wandered through the streets on Google as well, but it just looked very clean and Californian to my eyes.

gen. 24, 2012, 10:14pm

I Googled "Cannery Row" and Google Maps dumped me on a stretch of street that had parking lots (or empty lots) and run down shacks! I thought it rather suited the book. ;) Then I moved along towards the main stretch and it did get clean and rather touristy looking, although I loved the little walkways across the street for each cannery.

I note that Google maps now has photos from the general public that can overlay their images. (Maybe it's been there a while, but I've never "visited" anywhere touristy this way before!) I was hoping that they were going to be vintage photos, but no, just photos from modern tourists.

Did a Google for older photos, this one's a bit large, so I won't copy it here: has a history of Old Cannery Row, with some pictures. Women in the canning factories weren't mentioned in the book, yet it looks as if a lot of women worked there! (And some children...) also has some great industrial imagery.

Editat: gen. 25, 2012, 11:05am

There is a book titled Real Life on Cannery Row: Real People, Places and Events That Inspired John Steinbeck by A.L. Lundy. One of the reviews on Amazon is by Michael Hemp who is mentioned in the article about Ed Ricketts that mirrordrum originally posted. The book is getting scant but great reviews on Going to place a hold on it through my library - they have A copy :)

gen. 25, 2012, 12:01pm

I actually just bought Real Life on Cannery Row: Real People, Places and Events That Inspired John Steinbeck. It's a pretty slim book and I've just started it. If my library had had it I don't think I would have paid the money for it but it's a good companion to the novel. One of the things I thought was interesting in the first part was that the boiler with the people living in it was real.

It also has some great pictures.

gen. 27, 2012, 9:37pm

I was in Monterey last June. The main drag of Cannery Row is very touristy - full of not very good restaurants and tons of tchotchke shops. The scenery, though, especially the Carmel Valley and the shore line, are lovely.

gen. 29, 2012, 7:31am

Although I've Google Earthed Cannery Row ,to get a feel for the place , I'll check my library for the Lundy book.

I hate to put a damper on all the feel good comments but something's on my mind and I'd like to know if anyone thought this too. Where do you think Doc got the human fetuses? And why did he not visit the girls at the local uh hem gentlemen's club? Any connection?

Editat: gen. 29, 2012, 12:43pm

#98: I thought he might just have had 'good' connections. At those times miscarried children (are they called so?) were not deemed worthy for funeral and were certainly often used for tests of all sorts. He had all kind of curious stuff, and among all the other things some human fetuses. I've seen those jars with fetuses in movies where they were standing also on the shelves of medical doctors, for everyone to see.
(I don't think that he secretly performed abortions himself)

About the girls... well, he sometimes had female visitors from wherever. Maybe he just was a very private man and didn't want anyone in the neighbourhood to see behind his facade. He had all the paintings and books and shared his knowledge with the girls. For them he was a man of the mind, so maybe he just didn't want them to see the man with physical needs.

Edit: fixed 2 typos

Editat: gen. 29, 2012, 2:12pm

#99 I, too, thought about his connections, Nathalie and I'd be willing to go with that thought simply because there's nothing in the book to disprove it. I just tend to over think at times. Besides, I just discovered thru google that Doc was based on a good friend of Steinbeck.

gen. 29, 2012, 2:28pm

#98 Lynda, I don't think your comment put a damper on things and quite welcome different points of view. I did wonder for a moment about the human fetuses, but then remembered that these were very different times, when such things wouldn't have been so very out of the ordinary for men of science.

Nathalie's explanation is a good one, but your question does now make me wonder whether Doc didn't indeed perhaps give the girls a helping hand, so to speak, when one of them got in 'trouble'. There is nothing in the book that I know it to prove nor disprove this theory.

gen. 29, 2012, 5:12pm

I finished the audio of Cannery Row yesterday, and was a little surprised that some of the features stories of the movie were not in this book. Maybe they're in Sweet Thursday or one of his other books. The audio was a little frustrating, because I couldn't speed up when I wanted to, but ultimately satisfying in the way hearing great language can be more satisfying than reading it.

gen. 29, 2012, 8:32pm

>102 ffortsa: The movie, "Cannery Row" is based on Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. Suzy, Fauna & Joseph and Mary show up in Sweet Thursday.

gen. 29, 2012, 9:03pm

Thanks for the confirmation.

gen. 29, 2012, 9:15pm

satisfying in the way hearing great language can be more satisfying than reading it.

As a frequent audio listener, I know just what you mean Judy. I wonder though what bits you wished you could have sped up?

gen. 29, 2012, 9:22pm

Mainly the prep for the second party.

Editat: gen. 30, 2012, 12:10pm

Two things related to Cannery Row.

1) My mother and father both enjoyed Cannery Row and because my Dad was also a marine biologist he knew about Ricketts and his efforts. The early 1950's found our family transplanted to California and sometime in 1954 my parents made a trip to Cannery Row. At that time it was a run down ruin, however, many of the places, including Doc's lab, while shuttered, were still standing. My parents more or less used the book as their guide to the place and somewhere in the pile of family snapshots I have a picture of my Mom standing in front of Doc's lab. Many years later when I read my Mom's copy of Cannery Row she told me about their visit.

2) As a result of unpleasant world events I was drafted some years back and spent my two years plus aboard a U.S. tin can. Because of my duties on board I had a small phone booth type office. I had rearranged the filing cabinet contents so that I had one drawer to myself and I packed it with books. I did a lot of reading while in the service and my penchant for reading and my stash of books were known to everyone aboard ship.

One evening I was sitting in my office reading when there was a knock on the door. It turned out to be one of my shipmates (I've forgotten his name) and he wanted to know if he could borrow one of my books. I knew his taste in books ran to s**tkickers and f**k books (as they were called back then)and I told him I didn't happen to have anything in either vein. He said he had actually grown tired of those and was looking for something different. I thought a moment and then I gave him a paperback copy of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row. About two days later he came back with the book and a friend. He had made such a fuss about the book that his friend was eager to read it and wanted to know if he could borrow it. I said sure, no problem, just be sure to take care of it and bring it back. He agreed and about two days later he came back with yet another friend in tow and we went through the same drill. This was repeated about 5 more times and then around the 6th time the person came back without the book but told me to whom he had lent it and later in the day that person came by and told me he had it, was taking good care of it, and, by the way, so far it was a great read. The book continued to be lent in this fashion for another 8 or 9 go 'rounds and then it just disappeared into the lending circuit of our ship. The last time I saw the book was about a year later. It was in the hip pocket of a snipe disappearing down Bravo 4. It was dirty, greasy, taped, dog eared, and intact...and it was obviously being read.

I have no idea how many people read that copy of Cannery Row but from the standpoint of entertainment, education, and light reading value received I think the two dollars I spent for that book was probably the best two dollar investment I ever made.

gen. 30, 2012, 9:12am

107: Alco, that story about a great book being passed around like that put a big smile on my face and made my day! Thanks for sharing.

And, thank you to Ilana and all the others who have shared their love for Cannery Row. I've been quiet on this thread, though I've been silently nodding in the background. I'm looking forward to reading The Wayward Bus in February.

gen. 30, 2012, 9:14am

Alco, I ditto what Donna just said. This was the first thing I read on LT this morning and it's already made my day. You're not a bad storyteller yourself.

gen. 30, 2012, 9:15am

What great stories, alco261! Thanks for telling us. I love the idea of Cannery Row being passed around like that, among many shipmate readers who never would've thought of reading it on their own.

gen. 30, 2012, 11:31am

#107 I join the others in appreciation for the story you've shared with us Alco. Something tells me you must have replaced that old lost copy by now... :-)

#108 Donna, no need to thank me, it's been a rewarding experience sharing this book with so many people who've enjoyed it so much. It was a new discovery for me and I know I'll be reading it again more than once in future. I'm happy you'll be joining us for The Wayward Bus!

gen. 30, 2012, 12:23pm

The power of books, good books especially, warms my heart. Thanks for sharing your great story, Alco!

gen. 30, 2012, 9:14pm

107> WONDERFUL story! One of the best I've heard in a long time. I agree with Carmenere -- it's a beautiful illustration of the power of books. Thanks for sharing!

gen. 31, 2012, 8:17am

I'm glad everyone enjoyed the story. Per >111 Smiler69: I did replace the book and I've re-read it numerous times. Each time I read it the first thing that comes to mind is the memory of the last look I had of that shipboard copy in the hip pocket of that snipes working uniform. In some ways its dirty, greasy, shopworn appearance mirrored the condition of the Cannery Row that Steinbeck described.

gen. 31, 2012, 8:44am

In some ways its dirty, greasy, shopworn appearance mirrored the condition of the Cannery Row that Steinbeck described.

Well put, alco!

gen. 31, 2012, 9:19am

#114/115 I love that description too.

feb. 1, 2012, 12:46pm

Great story. It's so heartening when people turn from the books they expect to like to books with more meaning and grace.

feb. 3, 2012, 6:24pm

It's so great to see so many people finding and enjoying a book that has been one of my favorites for such a long time! I wrote a little review on my Club Read 2012 thread here:

feb. 6, 2012, 11:57pm

#114 Alco, your comments here certainly added a lot to our general appreciation of this novel, thanks again for sharing. I hope you'll be joining us on other Steinbeck novels this year. We're on to The Wayward Bus in February, and I'm finding it to be a great read—you're more than welcome to join in if you feel like it!

#118 Thanks for that link, I enjoyed your review and the quotes bring back great moments too.

feb. 7, 2012, 1:59pm

So, at the risk of pissing off all the people in the Steinbeckathon that adored this book, I thought it was good, but not great. I love Steinbeck and have read several of his works, but this one just didn't draw me in. It is a vivid portrayal of small town life and the colorful characters living there. And, yes, his language was wonderful; however, I had to force myself to read this book and found it kinda quaint and dated. The several chapters that have stuck with me had nothing to do with the poetry of his writing. The three scenes I remember most are the one about living in on old boiler (mostly because Joe and Smiler gave a link to this picture way up in post #32 thanks!); the scene with the groundhog, although I remember this because I kept thinking it reminded me of a kid's Saturday cartoon; and the scene with Doc at the ocean where he discovers something (this was sad and haunting, but maybe I was drawn to it because of my love of the macabre?). I have always enjoyed plot-driven books, which this clearly was not. I just wish I could have found it in me to appreciate this book more. Maybe I was in the wrong space to read it. Pooh! Don't hate me.

feb. 7, 2012, 6:29pm

Could never hate you! Even if you disdained all my favorite books.

I'm trying to move on to the next Steinbeck, but it's in paper and I'm carrying my Kindle, so - maybe later on.

feb. 7, 2012, 7:17pm

Maybe I was in the wrong space to read it. Pooh! Don't hate me.

Berly - I find that I do really need to be in the right time and space to really enjoy some books. But in the end, not everyone likes and dislikes the same things. I was hoping someone would pipe up with some criticisms here, just for some variety. So rather than hate, I'd like to say thanks for posting.

feb. 7, 2012, 10:35pm

What Nickelini said!

feb. 7, 2012, 10:47pm

Yes, agreed with Nickelini, down to the fact that I too would appreciate to read a different take on this book by anyone who didn't necessarily love it... or even someone who outright hated it!

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but it took me several chapters to get into this book and I was mostly bewildered at the beginning, having no idea where it was going. The lack of narrative was confusing to me, even though I knew I shouldn't look for one, but once I *got* that he was basically painting pictures of the place with words, I was able to appreciate it. It did help a lot that I was in the right place for it, because I can very well see me not at all appreciating this book in other circumstances.

Editat: feb. 8, 2012, 8:26am

Apparently only two of us were bothered by the attitude toward women.

Otherwise, LTers tend to be more literarily inclined than I am. I can see in the fiction of Cannery Row what I preferred in the non-fiction of The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

feb. 9, 2012, 10:12pm

Apparently only two of us were bothered by the attitude toward women.

Katherine, I didn't react to comments about that because I don't really see anything bothersome. Which isn't to say it's not a valid point. I think Cannery Row, in the novel anyway, is about men and their world and their views, and that women are seen through that particular lens. I don't question that filter, because I think it's indicative of the time during which it was written, and also, of the views held by many men. Whether I like that or not doesn't really enter the equation somehow.

That being said, I'd be very curious to know what it is specifically that bothered you and why?

feb. 10, 2012, 8:42am

Well, I don't think I'm seeing anything you aren't seeing: it is a very male world, and women are not fully people. I don't question the filter either, in the sense that it reflects the times, but "whether I like it or not" does enter in. As I said above, LTers tend to be more literarily inclined than I am. I can appreciate writing style, but it has less weight. It's not that I want to launch into a rant. I mentioned this in response to post 122 ("I was hoping someone would pipe up with some criticisms here"), which suggested that nobody had said anything critical.

feb. 11, 2012, 4:48pm

I wasn't sure at first what you meant by "literally inclined", but looking at your collections, I see you have a strong penchant for non-fiction, so think I know what you mean. I have a marked preference for fiction (though am happily discovering all the wealth to be found in non-fiction as well), but must say that writing style, though very important, takes a back seat to ideas if I find them to be disturbing to me. But as to that, everybody has their own level of tolerance for a wide variety of factors. Also, the same approach to a concept or idea (such as attitude toward women), might deeply disturb me in one context, and not rankle me at all in another. I find this to be a very interesting phenomena.

I'm glad you did pipe up. It's nice when people enjoy something almost uniformly, but then, it doesn't make for very animated discussions for one, and it also limits our ability to learn and see other points of view.