Books, Reviews

Cannery Row and Imagined Nostalgia

Cannery Row and Imagined NostalgiaCannery Row by John Steinbeck
1945
Genre: Classics

 

My 2-Sentence Summary

In Great Depression-era California, a small coastal town bustles with life. Doc is a locally respected marine biologist; trouble starts when a group of well-meaning but flaky drifters try to show their appreciation for him by throwing a party.

My Thoughts

Cannery Row might be described as a meditative series of character studies. The town is a bustling ecosystem of sympathies, longings, tacit alliances, petty slights – all running parallel to the ocean’s ecosystem. No creature is too plain, too poor, or too small for the narrator’s curious gaze. All are treated with compassion and quiet wonder.

I was born a century too late (and on the wrong coast) to feel nostalgia for California of the 1930s, but Steinbeck’s evident love for the place and time period is contagious. Somehow, his nostalgia is inclusive: remember back when the Model T reigned supreme on the road? When you could barter with the shopkeeper for a bottle of whiskey, or wave to that eccentric fellow living in a landed boat on the beach?

Favorite Quote

“When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to catch whole for they will break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book– to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.”

My Verdict

Steinbeck finds such beauty in squalor, without becoming saccharine. A new favorite!

I’m on a mission to read more classic literature. Here’s my master list of classics, if you’re interested.

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6 Comments

  • Reply Resh Susan January 20, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    I have read only Eas of Eden by Steinbeck. This seems like a good one to explore next
    Resh Susan recently posted…Book Review: The Grownup by Gillian FlynnMy Profile

  • Reply Debi Livsey January 21, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Thank you, I am adding this to my reading list!

  • Reply Whitney @ Imaginary Book Club January 24, 2016 at 10:56 am

    When I was about 19, I think, I started in on an obsessive read of everything from Steinbeck. I probably started with Cannery Row or Of Mice and Men in school, and then got really sucked in by the Grapes of Wrath. I still count East of Eden as one of my favorite novels ever. Of the more obscure books, I really enjoy The Moon is Down and Tortilla Flat. They all harness that extreme love of the Monterey area of Cali, and are an absolute must-read for anyone traveling to the region.

    I do think that Steinbeck is a love-or-hate kind of author – either you enjoy his tendency for extreme descriptions, or you hate it. I know people who fall on either side of that divide. Fortunately, I’m magnanimous and we can still be friends. 😉
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  • Reply Yani January 26, 2016 at 12:53 am

    I love how you review a book and wish that I am great as you! Thanks for the masterlist, BTW.
    Yani recently posted…Review: The Immortal RulesMy Profile

  • Reply Nicole January 29, 2016 at 11:48 am

    Oh yes. I’m going to have to get around to this some time. He has quickly become a favourite of mine and I’ve only read three of his books so far. Planning on reading many more. I am in love with his way with words and the way he devastates me with the quiet tension that he builds.
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  • Reply Joseph February 6, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    It’s been years since I read Cannery Row, but I remember enjoying it. Excellent review.

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