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Tortilla Flat

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  45,161 ratings  ·  2,464 reviews
"Steinbeck is an artist; and he tells the stories of these lovable thieves and adulterers with a gentle and poetic purity of heart and of prose." -- New York Herald Tribune

Adopting the structure and themes of the Arthurian legend, Steinbeck created a "Camelot" on a shabby hillside above the town of Monterey,California and peopled it with a colorful band of knights. At the
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published July 2001 by Longman Schools Division (a Pearson Education Company) (first published 1935)
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Popular Answered Questions
Amber I agree... Danny was an excellent protagonist. He was shrouded in mystery, yet I felt like I knew him all along.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) I agree, the narrator is saying "I'm not going to write about this scene."…moreI agree, the narrator is saying "I'm not going to write about this scene."(less)

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Average rating 3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  45,161 ratings  ·  2,464 reviews

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Jul 23, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Shelves: literature
I learned from this book that I continue to love Steinbeck. I despise the idea that he (like hemmingway for that matter) is sometimes considered a "simple" writer. Here's my opinion: Using flowery prose to add weight and impart meaning on a vaporous story is not great literature. A substantive story, containing meaning and moral, simply told IS great literature. This is what I run into every time I read Steinbeck. Hemmingway too. Simple construction - departing every so often to show off that ye ...more
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"Ah, the prayers of the millions, how they must fight and destroy each other on their way to the throne of God."

I don't know why the sad tales of John Steinbeck fill me with so much joy. It doesn't really make sense.

His is a hopelessly poor world, full of people who are destined to stay in the chaotic situation they call life forever. They know how to go through the different stages of heavy drinking, and how to mess up a perfectly fine love story. They know how to lose. And yet, the knights a
Justin Tate
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it
This early Steinbeck novel has the signature style that eventually made him one of the greatest writers of all time, but it never quite moved me like all his later works. I think the flaws have to do with he fact that the characters are unable to develop beyond caricature. We understand the “type” of people we’re dealing with, but we never really believe in them. Probably still a 4-Star book, but a bit of a disappointment when you put it up against all of Steinbeck’s other classics.
John Steinbeck is a master American storyteller whose work is always a treat for me to read. Tortilla Flat is one of three of his works I have planned for this year and got me off to a rousing start. Tortilla Flat is the first of Steinbeck’s novels that takes place in Monterey, California. He gives readers a sense of the era of the Depression as well as the place and the scenery. The characters of Danny and his friends were comical and fun to read about their exploits as they cope with having li ...more
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
‘Tortilla Flat’ (1935) was John Steinbeck’s first significant literary success – both popular and critical. Put simply and in Steinbeck’s own words, Tortilla Flat is the story of “Danny and of Danny’s friends and of Danny’s house” – his inheritance.

Danny and his assorted friends are ‘paisanos’ – countrymen of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and Caucasian mixed heritage. Danny and his ‘band of brothers’ are essentially, in Steinbeck’s eyes, decent people who play life very much according to their own ru
Much has been said about Steinbeck's apparent portrayal of Mexican Americans as lazy, amoral drunkards in Tortilla Flat. Some say Steinbeck was racist; some say he was just a product of his time. Which is right I do not know; Steinbeck may very well have been racist (he also uses "jew" as a slur and in several of his books uses unflattering stereotypes of Chinese people). I know nothing of the man's personal beliefs about race and it is a common fallacy to suppose an author always agrees with h ...more
mark monday
Synopsis: itinerant paisanos come together, then come apart.

I did not expect to smile and laugh so much! This mirthful book is not what I'm used to from Steinbeck. I knew there would beautiful prose of course, but instead of portraying the usual tragedies small and large, Steinbeck wanted to relax and have fun - and he wanted the reader to do the same, much as his characters do. Rather than looking upon the futility of ambition - of life itself - as a dirge, he made his story a joyous folk song
Jason Koivu
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Tales of the tall variety about a silly gang of friends whose boy's club antics remind one at times of "The Three Stooges" or "Last of the Summer Wine" as they cast about in search of adventure and drink, spinning their own unbelievable yarns while getting drunk, and philosophizing with wild abandon - be damned the passing of the day! Hell, there's even Yogi Bear-ish picnic basket pinching scene!

Nonsense, it's all nonsense! Or is it? I seem to recall something quite profound was said somewhere
Sep 06, 2018 rated it liked it
A rollicking good time.

John Steinbeck’s 1935 short novel about a Monterey group drunks and ne’er do wells fashioned like an Arthurian legend is fun, if a little dated.

Steinbeck fans will note similarities with his later works Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. Tortilla Flat was one of his earliest works and his first commercial success.

A picaresque tale told with humor and irony, this was also an entertaining glimpse into 1930s California as well as a visit with a very youthful Steinbeck (he was 33
Robert  Burdock
Briefly, Danny, the chief protagonist in this novel, returns from the war to Tortilla Flat (a paisano district that sits upon a hillside above Monterey), to find he has inherited two houses. What then follows is a comedic tale that fundamentally can be summed up in 5 words - wine, friendship, food, women and again :o)

This is the first John Steinbeck novel I've had the pleasure of reading, and quite simply it has left an indelible mark on me. What captivates me in the first instance is
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was incredibly boring to me and not on the same level as The Pearl and The Red Pony which I found very spiritual and thoroughly enjoyed. This is the fourth John Steinbeck book that I've read. The other was The Grapes of Wrath which was tolerable but not as good as the short stories I mentioned above. ...more
Feb 12, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook

Although it was initially rejected for publication on a number of occasions, this work – a short story cycle - was Steinbeck’s first real critical and commercial success,. He wrote it during 1933 and early 1934, when he was heavily involved in caring for his elderly parents, who were both were very ill. Steinbeck was inspired to write the book by a high school teacher friend, who was partly of Mexican descent. She had been studying the paisanos, poor people of mixed Mexican, Native American and
Joe Valdez
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-general
John Steinbeck has become an author whose books I can open to virtually any page and settle into a world I never want to leave. Even the men I work with who find fiction "theatrical" and rarely read books break into a smile at the mention of Steinbeck. His 1935 breakthrough Tortilla Flat was likely assigned reading in high school and it stands as a remarkable introduction to the author, with twenty-seven easily digested and related stories penned with faerie tale simplicity, wit and wonder.

The w
Jul 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-novels
This novel could easily be a set of short stories, a morality tale (or immorality!), a retelling of the Arthurian legends or a retelling of the gospels with a very alternative last supper!
Danny and his friends (all paisanos) spend their time looking for food, wine, shelter and women and this is pretty much all they need in life to be content. Getting hold of wine is a thread through the book and its role is important; sharing your wine is true friendship and there are some excellent quotes
"Two g
Dave Schaafsma
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
“Two gallons is a great deal of wine, even for two paisanos. Spiritually the jugs maybe graduated thus: Just below the shoulder of the first bottle, serious and concentrated conversation. Two inches farther down, sweetly sad memory. Three inches more, thoughts of old and satisfactory loves. An inch, thoughts of bitter loves. Bottom of the first jug, general and undirected sadness. Shoulder of the second jug, black, unholy despondency. Two fingers down, a song of death or longing. A thumb, every ...more
Tortilla Flat was one of the earlier works of John Steinbeck taking place in Monterey, California during the years after World War I and the Great Depression. When Danny returns to Monterey after serving in the U.S. Army, he discovers that he has inherited the small home of his grandfather in Tortilla Flat. Told in a true Arthurian legend with the legendary knights of the round table, Danny gathers a rag-tag group of paisanos around him, but with each one standing firm in their loyalty to one an ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-american
I had read Tortilla Flat the summer before entering the 10th grade. I liked it very much then because of the atmosphere of the novel with which I was entirely in sympathy. I was enthralled with the possibility of the lackadaisicality of life.

When you are 15, friendships are vitally important, and that's what this book is about (although these are men, not boys) among a host of other themes such as loyalty, honor, poverty, daring, truthfulness, love and so on. The characters are "paisanos"--a mi
Vit Babenco
Apr 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tortilla Flat is a case of the meek inheriting the earth – some are meek in the head, some are meek in their moral attitudes and some have other kinds of meekness…
“Teresina was a mildly puzzled woman, as far as her mind was concerned. Her body was one of those perfect retorts for the distillation of children. The first baby, conceived when she was fourteen, had been a shock to her; such a shock, that she delivered it in the ball park at night, wrapped it in newspaper, and left it for the night w
Mar 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing

I loved this book. I did. Here's why: simple, straightforward, but oh-so-charming storytelling. No pretenses. What you see, is what you get. Danny. Pilon. Big Joe Portagee. Pablo Sanchez. Jesus Maria Corcoran. Pirate and his dogs. Some might argue that none of these are great characters. You might even make the (valid) point that each one is a 'failure' of sorts--since between them they're barely surviving by the world's standards. They live to drink and drink to live. But are they happy? Yes! T
May 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
The good news is that the same brilliant author who wrote this unbelievably mish mash farce of a novel, 4 years later wrote one the greatest novels of all time, The Grapes of Wrath. This short book(thank, God) is only 207 pages in paperback and for some reason, has an AWOL Mexican Army Corporal show up with a baby that soon dies. The symbolism is lost on me as the rest of the novel has them drinkng enough wine to sink the Titanic. Really disappointed in this one but if Steinbeck wrote a bad nove ...more
Feb 03, 2013 rated it liked it
A fairly short book, but how enchanting! A collection of stories about tramps who settle down in the Tortilla flat-area near Monterey, California. Steinbeck paints a very sympathetic portrait of a group of marginal people. That's what I like some much in this book, but even more so in The Grapes of Wrath or Of Mice and Men: like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy Steinbeck saw real humanity in people on the margins of society (the other way around is also true: a lot of so-called civilized people can be re ...more
Christina Gouthro
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ah the life of a tramp, so expertly illustrated. In this, John Steinbeck is a master.
The fate of these men were tied together briefly, and the same fate that tied them together, disbanded them. or so they believed.. and who are we to judge one's beliefs even if it seems like a bold, mad martyrs move into recklessness.

Friends have helped friends get through, through the ages, the changing ideas, changing medical descriptions, but it's always been the same. People get sad, and connecting with ot
Cindy Newton
This is a charming and humorous tale of the adventures of a group of erstwhile paisanos in California after World War I. I was confused when I started this because they were addressing each other as "thee" and "thou", and I did not think this was a common patois of southern California at this time in history. Then I read in the book description that Steinbeck had based the book on Camelot and used the structure and themes of Arthurian legends, and it made a little more sense.

However, as I kept
Kev D'Olivo
Feb 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some things i noticed about this book:

1. Allegory for King Arthur and the knights of the Roundtable
2. Danny's good side represents Arthur, while his wild side represents Lancelot's later character.
3. For a while i thought Danny was a figure of christ becasue of his forgiving and sacrificial nature, but his later exploits dispeled this notion.
4. Torelli is definitley a symbol for Satan, the snake imagery surrounding his character is hard to miss.
5. The big party for Danny = the last supper.
D.B. Woodling
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers who appreciate classic literature

In this short novel, published in 1935, the author accomplished what he has consistently achieved, awakening emotion through lifelike characters. Written during the depression, it is no wonder Steinbeck’s destitute but optimistic characters appealed to the masses. Their appreciation of basic needs — with the occasional bottle of wine and a lusty woman thrown in — struck a chord with so many experiencing similar hardships.

Though criticized for a demeaning portrayal of Mexican-Americans, Steinbeck
Logan Hartley
Sep 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another great Steinbeck novel.
Aug 29, 2014 rated it liked it
I went to Monterey recently (on my honeymoon, as it happens) and was utterly charmed by the place. A quirky and picturesque seaside town nestled on the coast of California, which manages to be touristy without being tacky, historic while still embracing the modern, and sleepy even when recognising the cosmopolitan. Also, it does damn good clam chowder. Having gone there and somewhat fallen in love with the place, how could I then resist the writings of its most famous son? Particularly when that ...more
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After rereading this one by Steinbeck for a Group Read, I felt that the power of the story is no longer a 5-star read. I reread both Of Mice and Men and The Pearl every year, and these stories still remain powerful and magical. ...more
52nd book of 2020.

This one took me a while to get into, but I enjoyed the second half. It's certainly not the best Steinbeck, but it is an early work, after all. The idea is great, Danny and his motley crew and their adventures, but the way it's told is a little too detached for my liking; there is quite a lot of 'telling', which makes the prose uninteresting at times. It's a fun read, but nothing special.
Chaunceton Bird
Feb 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like most of Steinbeck's work, this was one poetic punch in the gut. Loved everything about it. ...more
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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley

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