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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Poem
Although 'Cannery Row' is short compared to Steinbeck's better known novels, it is packed full of the powerful and delicate, beautiful and insightful writing which Steinbeck is the master of. There is no single story or plot binding the novella together, but the structure of the narrative is found in the many stories which Cannery Row has to tell us. Through clever and...
Published on 19 Jan 2003 by scribeoflight

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Plot-less but entertaining
I did enjoy reading Cannery Row, but when I got to the end of it, I wondered what on earth it was about. I do think that some sort of a plot could have helped. Even if the plot had been Mack 'n the boys' resolution to give Doc a good party. It just didn't have much closure.
However, I did very much enjoy the characters. Lee Chong was my favorite, with his no...
Published on 29 April 1999


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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Poem, 19 Jan 2003
This review is from: Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Although 'Cannery Row' is short compared to Steinbeck's better known novels, it is packed full of the powerful and delicate, beautiful and insightful writing which Steinbeck is the master of. There is no single story or plot binding the novella together, but the structure of the narrative is found in the many stories which Cannery Row has to tell us. Through clever and precise writing Steinbeck reveals to us characters both unique and universal, colourful and natural. There is happiness and sadness, a little tragedy, and a lot of hope - a picture is painted not just of American people before WW2, but of people who while shaped by their nationality, are not defined by it. Through all of 'Cannery Row' there is a sense that some sort of fundamental humanity will see to everything being okay in the end - Steinbeck comes across as being a great believer in the human spirit, pure and simple, stripped of all its pretentions and possessions, anxieties and angers, nationalities and politics. Steinbeck looks at the world and sees things we don't always see, and he writes honestly about evil when he sees it and unsentimentally about good when he sees that. 'Cannery Row' is the sort of book which makes you look at things a little differently, and leaves you with a peaceful smile on your face when you put it down at the end.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, funny, warm and inciteful, 18 July 2006
By 
KJ "Karen" (Northampton UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
On appearances this book appears surprisingly small. Once opened though every sentence grabs you. Steinbeck describes scenes and characters so vividly, with such unusual imagery, that even after finishing the book I find myself still recalling parts of it,even reciting parts of the book back to myself just to remember how beautifully phrased the words were. Sad, perhaps, but then you don't know until you read it yourself.There is no plot particularly. There seems no aim, just day to day life in a small community (I won't say Amercian community because these characters could be from any country). I was sorry to finish it and like many of the other reviewers, I will definately read more Steinbeck.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five stars aren't nearly enough for this masterpiece., 30 Aug 2001
By A Customer
John Steinbeck was (and still is, although he's dead) one of the most respected and revered writers to come out of America and, if you read this book, you'll see why. Set in a tiny comunity attached to the tuna canneries near Monterey in California during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the reader is introduced to a magical world where friendship and camaraderie fill empty bellies. Mack and the boys, Lee Chong and Doc are the central characters, around which Steinbeck has built a literary cathedral of 'belly-laughter' humour, pathos and subtle wit. This was the first of Steinbeck's books which I read and I found it to be the perfect introduction to his others. I challenge anyone with a soul to read this work of pure brilliance and not want to be there, be part of the story. If you can read this book without laughing out loud, go and see your doctor, because there's something wrong with you. After reading Cannery Row, read Sweet Thursday and Tortilla Flat, then you're ready for The Grapes of Wrath.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 12 Mar 2011
This review is from: Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Cannery Row is a short book written by Steinbeck as a tribute to his upbringing in California. It is an excellent read full of humour and drama.

The characters in Cannery Row are, without exception, societies outcasts: Drunkards, thieves, prostitutes, gamblers and down-on-their-luck businessmen. From reading this you would be forgiven for thinking this story would be bleak or perhaps unpleasant. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It's refreshing to read about characters who genuinely love life. There isn't a whole lot of brooding or introverted thoughts just a small group with tenuous links in common getting on with their lives and co-existing. There is a subtle thread of mutal love and friendship in among the grime of their existence.

I found the book uplifting and fun to read. There is tragedy and sadness but also great and simple joys and an honest way of living which has perhaps been lost these days. I don't envy any of their hard lives but in the midst of their poverty, crime and immoral behaviour alot of joy and decency can be found.

On top of all this I love the front cover of this addition. A very powerful book but also great fun.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awe inspiring insight into all of us, 24 April 2003
In one of Steinbeck's most overlooked books he leaves aside great political issues to do what he does best - write about the bums, no-gooders and tramps he knew and remembered.
Along with `Of Mice & Men' there are few books that make such deep insights into the human condition in so few words.
Steinbeck manages to balance humour & pathos, writing an amazing character driven book that will have you reeling.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steinbeck at his best, 21 Mar 1998
By A Customer
Cannery Row is one of the most amazing literary achievements of all time. Steinbeck's words paint such a vivid picture of the people and places surrounding a vacant lot in Monterey that you will almost smell the fish rotting on the beach and hear the music coming from the lobby of the Bear Flag Hotel. The people of Cannery Row don't do much all day, and they never really achieve anything, but Steinbeck portrays them so magically that by the end of the story they have become archetypal heroes of greatness, honor, and beauty. This is the book that convinced me that I had to read everything ever written by John Steinbeck.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just mesmerising., 12 Feb 2006
By 
Mr. R. Fisher "vinylrichie" (Surrey, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Steinbeck is one of literatures greats. He breathes such life into his characters, especially here, that every page is a joy to behold. Cannery Row is a book you hate to finish as it is so beautifully written. Never before have a bunch of small town wastrels seemed so beguiling. You know you are in the midst of writing genius as you read it and you will be left with an enveloping feeling of sadness and warmth. This little book will stay with you forever and prompt you to indulge in some of Steinbeck's more challenging masterpieces as well as his equally enthralling novellas. Steinbeck, I salute you and cannot thank you enough for sharing your wonderful, almost poetic writings with the world.
Buy this, people. Read and re-read as I'd be surprised if you are disappointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rock-pools, 18 Jun 2012
By 
GlynLuke (York UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
I can`t imagine anyone not enjoying this life-enriching book.
A connected series of vignettes over 32 brief chapters, detailing in wry, droll, compassionate detail the lives of the denizens of Steinbeck`s old stamping ground of Cannery Row, Monterey, this is a novella one can put down and pick up like a book of short stories, or devour in one gulp. Either way, it`s a modest feast.
From likeable loner Doc`s live-in Western Biological marine laboratory to Mack and the boys` Palace Flophouse, from Dora`s well-run Bear Flag whorehouse to Lee Chong`s sell-everything store, not to mention the various other nooks and crannies of the microcosm that is Cannery Row on California`s coast, this is a delightful, open-ended saga of fallible, seat-of-the-pants characters who are often dubious in their dealings with each other, though rarely mean-spirited.
Steinbeck, in sinewy, often poetic, healthily bawdy prose, excels himself writing about a world he knew intimately and, one guesses, missed and longed for all his life. The scenes where Doc roams the rock-pools left by the low tide, catching the denizens of another microcosm for his marine research, are vivid and fascinating.
The attempts of Mack and his well-meaning pack of shirkers and boozers to throw a party for Doc form a running thread to these rambling yarns, proving it isn`t as easy as it looks to stage a spontaneous party, nor to keep said party a secret in a small world where everyone knows everything by a kind of osmosis, without having been told.
All human and non-human life is here, down to the lonesome gopher who digs a lavish labyrinth of holes and waits for a mate. It`s quite obvious Steinbeck loved and understood animals, as he writes about them with a keen eye and lack of sentimentality. Humans too.
The stories here are continued in Sweet Thursday, which, in the fullness of time, I will get around to reading. As Mack might say, there`s always tomorrow...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SIMPLY A MASTER PIECE, 18 Feb 2012
By 
Alexander Bryce (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Is this the best short novel ever written? Yes I think so. No wonder Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1962. Not as heavy as East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath, but every bit as enjoyable.
Let the individual stories about the variety of misfits, drunks and whores wash over you and the parts become a delightful whole. No matter what stupid failures the characters are , I grew to sympathise and even admire the well meant antics of Mac and the boys , the decency of Doc, the shrewdness of Lee Chong and the good nature of Dora the local madam.
The tale revolves round an attempt by the citizens of Cannery Row to repay Doc for his many good turns and wise council. A simple enough story, but in the hands of John Steinbeck it is a riveting, rollicking, laugh out loud Masterpiece.
The descriptions of Cannery Row are so convincing that I can see the Canneries , the Flop House, the Bear Flag cat house etc. etc. There are two outstandig passages about wild life that are stand alone mini masterpieces: the frog hunt and the gopher.
Simply the best book I have read in a long long time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "With your sheet-metal memory of Cannery Row...", 11 Mar 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Bob Dylan included the subject line in his epic song, "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands." Precisely what the line means is a matter of conjecture, and I would welcome some comments. It could mean an absolute and for sure recollection, like something burned into sheet-metal; but typical of Dylan, it could mean the opposite, a memory that has no traction, on something so smooth, like sheet-metal, that nothing is retained.

At any rate, on my second reading, I found it to be as warm, enjoyable, heart-felt, and humane as the first reading. It stands in contrast to The Grapes of Wrath his more epic novel for which he won the Nobel Prize. The later dealt far more with the moral dimensions of the Great Depression, whereas Cannery Row, which is set in the same period, depicts some of the "beautiful losers" who manage to survive, and accommodate each other in ways most of us have now long forgotten.

Cannery Row is in Monterey, California, and as the name implies, is near the large canneries which service the fishing boats, and provide meaningful employment when the boats are full. Steinbeck's prose is lean, and he has the knack of quickly providing the meaningful details that provide essential insights into his characters. There is Doc, the alcoholic intellectual who runs the Western Biological Laboratory, which provides marine specimens for many places in the country. There is Mack, and the boys who mean good, can rarely keep a few dollars together, and who manage to live rent free in the "Palace Flophouse." There is Dora Flood, who runs an "upright" house of prostitution, called the "Bear Flag Restaurant." And there is Lee Chong, who runs the local grocery store, and provides, or doesn't, credit for many of the denizens of the area. The plot centers around the two parties that Mack and the boys attempt to hold in honor of Doc. And who amongst us has not known some folks like Mack, who are well-intentioned, but doomed to failure?

Steinbeck's social commentary is much more low-key than in "The Grapes of Wrath," but it is still there, at times implicit, at others, explicit. Consider: "The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first, they love the produce of the second."

For those enjoying the Great Recession, or not, this is an insightful, wonderful read of the survivors from a previous hard-times era. A solid 5-stars.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on March 10, 2010)
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Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics)
Cannery Row (Penguin Modern Classics) by John Steinbeck (Paperback - 7 Sep 2000)
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