Joyce Lagow's Reviews > Tortilla Flat
by John Steinbeck
by John Steinbeck
Steinbeck was born in Salinas and grew up in the Salinas/Monterey area. That he loved the region and its people is abundantly clear in many works such as Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. In particular, he had great affection for the not-so-respectable; Tortilla Flat is a collection of stories about a group of paisanos a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and assorted Caucasion bloods , speaking English with a paisano accent and Spanish with a paisano accent. They live in a run-down, shabby neighborhood uphill of Monterey proper known as Tortilla Flat.[return][return]Newly returned from service in World War I, Danny, a paisano, discovers that he has inherited great wealth in the form of two house (more like shacks) in Tortilla Flat. Settling in to one, he decides to rent out the other to one of his friends, Pilon. Who is about as broke and averse to steady work as Danny himself. Before long, in an attempt to get up the rent, more friends of Danny s move in with Pilon until they end up with an amicable and stable household.[return][return]Using this starting point, the stories go on to describe the activities and the lives of Danny, his friends, and the other residents of Tortilla Flat. Seemingly as disorganized and the paisanos, the stories are skillfully told in language that mimics English with a paisano accent . The effect is utterly charming and frequently hilarious. Ne er-do-well scoundrels they may be, but they are endearing nevertheless.[return][return]The book ends with what should be a tragedy and yet somehow is not. Somehow it is totally fitting in a paisano way just as Gotterdamerung is a tragedy, but totally fitting for the people in its world.[return][return]Written in 1935 in a deceptively simple style that never seems dated, Tortilla Flat deservedly brought Steinbeck to notice. It s an affectionate, enduring work.
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