Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Cannery Row - John Steinbeck
Every once in awhile, I force myself to read a classic that I should have read years ago. I remembered reading East of Eden in high school and loving it, so I thought I'd pick up another Steinbeck gem. From the first page, I was hooked by Steinbeck's writing. It seems so simple, but he captures everything so perfectly. Cannery Row takes place on a small street Monterey, California, and focuses on the people who live out their lives there - most notably, Lee Chong, the Asian grocer, Mack - the leader of a group of bums, Dora - the moral madam of the local whorehouse, and Doc - a man who collects and studies marine life. The books centers around Mack's desire to do something nice for Doc, and deciding ultimately to throw him a party. But, mostly, the book is a series of vignettes about life on Cannery Row, and an exploration of the complexities of individuals despite seemingly simple outward appearances. I found each of the characters so compelling. I wanted Steinbeck to devote an entire book to each one so I could learn more about their lives and their pasts and dreams. I think if I had read this for a class back in college, I probably would have highlighted almost all of it - it is filled with beautiful images and perfect language - and it made me want to take a trip down to Monterey to listen to the gulls and take in the salty sea air. Simply fantastic.