Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Steinbeck wrote one book about the Arthurian legends. However, he wrote a few books using the Arthurian legend model and Cannery Row is one of them.
Here we have a marvelously fun tale, almost a tall-tale, about the bums, prostitutes and common folk living on the California coast south of the San Francisco bay area in and about Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea during the Great Depression. Mischievous scamps get up to no good and little comes of it. All of this is inconsequential and yet intrinsic to human nature.
I finished Cannery Row a week or so ago. It's taken me this long to think about how I wanted to review it. That's not because it's a particularly deep and thought-provoking book. I just needed to examine my feelings, and besides, I feel like Steinbeck's work deserves reflection, even his lesser work.
Is this a lesser Steinbeck work? It's heralded by many and often included in "top Steinbeck" lists. I don't see it. Don't get me wrong, it's quite good, 3.5 stars good I'd say, but it's more of a collection of character sketches loosely tied together rather than a fully realized novel. Ah, but they are incredible sketches!
Cannery Row and Tortilla Flats fall into that Arthurian legend model as stated earlier. These are adventure stories in which "heroes" go on quests in an attempt to obtain whatever is their holy grail. Are there morals and lessons to be learned along the way? Sure. Is any of this meant to be much more than entertainment? I don't think so, but that's me. This is highly enjoyable and I think that's what Steinbeck was going for.
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