A beautiful, self-consciously nostalgic book, made even more beautiful by Susan Shillinglaw's introduction. Knowing Steinbeck's context while writingA beautiful, self-consciously nostalgic book, made even more beautiful by Susan Shillinglaw's introduction. Knowing Steinbeck's context while writing the book made it resonate even more powerfully with me.
"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 and sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, "Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men," and he would have meant the same thing." (5)
"How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise -- the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream -- be set down alive? When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book -- to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves." (6)
"The Word is a symbol and a delight which sucks up men and scenes, trees, plants, factories, and Pekinese. Then the Thing becomes the Word and back to Thing again, but warped and woven into a fantastic pattern. The Word sucks up Cannery Row, digests it and spews it out, and the Row has taken the shimmer of the green world and the sky-reflecting seas. Lee Chong is more than a Chinese grocer. He must be. Perhaps he is evil balanced and held suspended by good -- an Asiatic planet held to its orbit by the pull of Lao Tze and held away from Lao Tze by the centrifugality of abacus and cash register-- Lee Chong suspended, spinning, whirling among grocers and ghosts. A hard man with a can of beans -- a soft man with the bones of his grandfather." (17)
"What can it profit a man to gain the whole world and to come to his property with a gastric ulcer, a blown prostrate, and bifocals? Mack and the boys avoid the trap, walk around the poison, step over the noose while a generation of trapped, poisoned, and trussed-up men scream at them and call them no-goods, come-to-bad-ends, blots-on-the-town, thieves, rascals, bums. Our Father who art in nature, who has given the gift of survival to the coyote, the common brown rat, the English sparrow, the house fly and the moth, must have a great and overwhelming love for no-goods and blots-on-the-town and bums, and Mack and the boys. Virtues and graces and laziness and zest. Our father who art in nature." (18)
Hazel turned one of the stink bugs over with the toe of his wet tennis shoe and the shining black beetle strove madly with floundering legs to get upright again. "well, why do you think they do it?"
"I think they're praying," said Doc.
"What!" Hazel was shocked.
"The remarkable thing," said Doc, "isn't that they put their tails up in the air -- the really incredibly remarkable thing is that we find it remarkable. We can only use ourselves as yardsticks. If we did something as inexplicable and strange we'd probably be praying -- so maybe they're praying." (38)
"Early morning is a time of magic in Cannery Row. In the gray time after the light has come and before the sun has risen, the Row seems to hang suspended out of time in a silvery light. The street lights go out, and the weeds are a brilliant green. The corrugated iron of the canneries glows with the pearly lucence of platinum or old pewter. No automobiles are running then. The street is silent of progress and business. And the rush and drag of the waves can be heard as they splash in among the piles of the canneries. It is a time of great peace, a deserted time, a little era of rest. Cats drip over the fences and slither like syrup over the ground to look for fish heads..." (81)
"It is the hour of the pearl -- the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself." (82)
"And everywhere people asked him why he was walking through the country.
Because he loved true things he tried to explain. He said he was nervous and besides he wanted to see the country, smell the ground and look at grass and birds and trees, to savor the country, and there was no other way to do it save on foot. And people didn't like him for telling the truth." (99)
I read this entire anthology while sitting with my sick grandfather, listening to him sleep. It brought me great peace. Recommended for nature-lovers,I read this entire anthology while sitting with my sick grandfather, listening to him sleep. It brought me great peace. Recommended for nature-lovers, poets, and people with both stillness and wilderness in their hearts....more