Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cannery Row

John_Steinbeck Steinbeck is a stunning writer, but the man doesn’t really write about things that 1. I care about or 2. are particularly uplifting. I feel a bit like a fraud saying that I don’t care. I understand that I should care and also that it is the mark of a good writer if they have the ability to make me care about something I have no interest in.

I read Cannery Row for the simple fact that it is Mr. X’s favorite book of all time. (Who is Mr. X?)

I did enjoy the experience of reading Cannery Row. I am not sure I fully expected to enjoy it at all. It is a daunting task to read a favorite book of a friend. It also creates a unique reading experience as you try to view the book from their eyes. Part of what I enjoyed the most about Cannery Row its moments of overwhelmingly striking prose and interesting characters.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream”

cannery-rowThis story is about a town and the people who live and work along one street and the way that they interact with each other. Each character has a role and is woven into the fabric of the life of the community. The book reminds me, in part, about how much we have changed as a society. How we don’t know the names of the people who live next to us and we avoid people we know when we see them in the super market.

Perhaps Cannery Row present a grandness of times gone by, an honesty about life. The book was written in 1945 and takes place during the Great Depression. Life for these characters is very bleak. They are poor; they live in shacks and abandoned lots. Yet they function together within the town. They help each other out or ignore each other with purpose. There strong and the weak and the rich and the poor are given equal ground by Steinbeck. He shows each man and woman as they are and does not tell you how you should feel about them. He presents them without judgment.

The situations of these people’s life strikes me with sadness, yet Steinbeck is able to bring humor to the morose lifestyle of the people of Cannery Row. Also, the characters of Cannery Row only seem moderately aware of their deprived comforts. But Steinbeck was successful in showing both the good and bad sides of every character. Even the man who walks down the street and doesn’t have a name isn’t flat to the reader. Every character is fleshed out and able to bring forth an emotional response.

I was happy to have read this book and share the experience with someone who cares so much for the book and the characters in it. The book is a relatively quick read and not particularly about anything but the antics of a few individuals in a small town. Cannery Row is understood through many people and perspectives throughout the book. Each point of view, large or small, weaves together in the reader’s mind to create a fuller picture of what life was like in this town.

Steinbeck quote

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