Back for a Moment to Cannery Row

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I was surprised by Cannery Row. First, I thought I had read it before. Turns out, I was wrong. Second, it was the reading for one of our books groups. In fact, it was one of the best things we've read in the last year. After several sessions of reading novels influenced by postmodernism, even if not postmodern themselves, I was astounded at the sheer exuberance and power of Steinbeck's prose. True, he was a modernist, but he believed in story and character and the fact that both of these are necessary to make a successful book. Most modern writers simply haven't gotten that down. They lack depth in one or the other. Gutterson's Our Lady of the Forest was so bereft of such interests that I abandoned reading after thirty pages. (Unlike some readers, I do not believe the reader owes the author ANYTHING--not even five pages. I will occasionally read past a few dull pages in the hope that the book will improve, but I figure if you've had ten percent of your novel to interest me and I'm still not drawn in, it's not likely to get better.)

Steinbeck won a Nobel Prize for his writing and it's easy to see why. His mastery of his subject and his subtlety with drawing characters, places, and actions blow most modern writers out of the water. While he had an agenda, I am not stuck with reading through reams of world-weary trash hoping for some denouement that will provide and ray of hope. Cannery Row is about absolute poverty and deprivation, and the whole thing is lit from within. There is wry humor and subtle interplay among characters as well as interesting tid-bits about Monterey and its history.

There is a reason why some works become classics and some writers are highly regarded. Steinbeck, except for his politics, has always been a favorite of mine, and this book just served to reinforce the general feeling.

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I love Steinbeck! In fact, I will be on Cannery Row this weekend. When I lived in Santa Cruz I often made little trips down Highway 1 to Salinas and Monterey, mostly to just sit and observe the changes and unchanging things in Steinbeck country. That book is one of his best, too.

So glad to hear your praise of Steinbeck. I couldn't agree mo'. He's also a favorite of Karen of Disordered Affections btw.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 13, 2004 7:43 AM.

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