wally's Reviews > Cannery Row

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
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's review
Sep 19, 10

it was amazing
bookshelves: steinbeck
Read in July, 2012

cannery row, 1945...i read this one as well as many of steinbeck's other stories back in the ago...'78-'79...32nd street naval station, san diego...a great library, underway, the captain stepping over my out-stretched legs as i read on the 01-level weatherdeck of the hepburn...anchors away, my boy! anchors away! aweigh, even...so is it, bombs, away! or bombs, aweigh?

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 the 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. 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.

i like the tip-of-the hat to Anton Chekhov...his short, "at sea"...the story that tells us what story-telling is...the young man looking through the porthole at the going's-on in the stateroom, the man selling his wife, apparently to the highest bidder...or something...enlightening and baffling...allowing us, the reader, to become for a moment like a peeping tom...showing us enough to keep us curious.

onward and upward

update, 15 jul 12, sunday afternoon...3:28 p.m. e.s.t.

time & place
monterey california...cannery row...la jolla...dates in the story include april, 1932, 1935, 1937...lee chong's grocery...palace flophouse & grill...western biological...bear flag restaurant (a cathouse)...hediendo cannery...hopkins marine station...ventura and other places between monterey and la jolla...la ida, a bar...hotel del monte...chicken-in-the-rough (a restaurant)...holman's department store

lee chong, owns the grocery
dora flood...runs the bear flag restaurant
horace abbeville, 2 wives, 6 children
hughie & jones
eddie, bartends at la ida, works for whitey, the regular tender
12 girls, a greek cook name of lou, and a man alfred/alfy a kind of watchman at bear flag
previous watchman....(considered a pimp) at bear flag
eva flanegan...one of the girls
an old chinaman
gay and his wife
johnnie, owns la ida
mr. randolph & stenographer
mr and mrs sam malloy...moved into the old boiler from hediendo cannery
phyllis mae...another girl at bear flag
red williams...owns a gas station
frankie...hangs out at western biological...has since age 11
mckinely moran, deep sea diver
robert louis stevenson...lived in monterey
josh billings...another writer...
mr carrioa...
mr ryan
a watch captain and his dog
darling, the pointer puppy that max takes/is given from the captain for tick removal
2 soldiers and 2 girls
tom work
a caretaker and a cocker spaniel
elsie doublebottom, another girl from the bear flag
henri...a painter/artist
blaisedell, the poet
a pole skater at holman's department store
doctor merrivale, shoots the pole skater w/a daisy air rifle
mrs. trolat, mr hall...3 willoughby girls, richard frost & wife

some quotes
"a man with a beard was always a little suspect anyway."

"people didn't like you for telling the truth."

"with the model t-ford, part of the concept of private property disappeared." (pliers, jacks, and such)

"why don't you take a flying fuggat the moon?"

heh! that last, i thought that was something kurt vonnegut coined...but perhaps it was a common phrase around that time?...vonnegut used the phrase...as well as, 'take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut' in one of his stories, i forget exactly which one...

there are no "main" character/hero/protagonist...all of the characters of monterey/cannery row are the heroes of this story. you have mack and the boys living in the old building, now called the palace flop house, where each man has a 7 x 4 foot section drawn out on the floor...the rest is common property (thought it'd be interesting to see what steinbeck does w/that idea)...

update, finished, 5:56 p.m. e.s.t. 15 jul 12, sunday evening...it's a warm one

good story...if there is a "plot" it is that mack and the boys, the virtues, the beatitudes, the beauties...want to throw a party for doc...their 1st is a dismal embarrassment...they do succeed, after a fashion....doc, reading "black marigolds," translated from the sanskrit by e. powys mathers...

anyway...all the various characters of monterey...even the barking sea lions, two little boys, joey and williard, who will be boys, we've all been there...my dick is bigger than your dick...although steinbeck didn't stoop to that end...but the result is the same. even a gopher gets into the act at the end....

...so yeah, all these short sweet chapters...life on cannery row...if there be "main" characters they be doc and mack...perhaps throw in lee chong and dora, as well...

some additional characters
mary talbot, mrs tom talbot...tom, the writer, as yet unsuccessful
kitty randlph, kitty casini...cats that mary plays wioth
joey and williard, two small boys
the sprague kid...of whom they speak
mr jacobs of jacob's jewelry store
doris...another gal from the bear flag
mack...someone that dora might get to fill for alfy at some point
alice, one of many women in henri's life
henri, said already, the painter, boat builder...

unusual happenings
henri, the painter, boat builder, has this strange situation...he apparently hallucinates that a young man and a boy are with him on his boat...the young man cuts the boy's throat...weirdness...too, nice that steinbeck threw that in there, for the ole creep factor.

also...when the doc is down in la jolla, he finds a body submerged in the water...

and i thought there was at least one dream sequence...must have been early on...too wore out to look through my notes to make a note of it here....hi ho.

good read.


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