A review by Nemo Karlsson Asp, MU1.
Cannery Row is a book about many people, places and happenings. The author, JohnSteinbeck, was born 1902 and grew up in California, United States. He has writtenmany books, and Cannery Row was published in 1945, but the story takes place in thelate 1930’s, in a city part in Monterey called Cannery Row.Cannery Row lies at the coast. Its inhabitants are a variety of different personalities,backgrounds and feelings. Steinbeck starts the book by introducing some of the majorplaces and prepares me for some of the characters I am about to meet in the story, in aprequel-like chapter which begins like this:
“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a qualityof light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream”
It is a great way to start a book; since he only tells me a little about the inhabitants, heentices you to read more;
“Doc strolls from the Western Biological Laboratory and crosses the street to LeeChong’s grocery for two quarts of beer. Henri the painter noses like an Airedalethrough the junk in the grass-grown lot for some part or piece or wood or metal heneeds for the boat building”
The prequel is followed by the first chapter, in which you hear conversations betweendifferent people. We have Doc, a man who collects animals because of medical reason,Mack’s gang, a little, perhaps sometimes sad group of men who sometimes have a job,sometimes not, and Lee Chong, a man from China who works at the grocery store.And don’t forget Dora, the boss of the “Bear Flag” (a brothel).It is those characters who mostly return in the book. Cannery Row’s main plot is thatMack and his gang wants to do something nice for Doc; he is a helpful and nice manwho often is considered the local doctor, although he is officially not one. But it is notevery chapter that follows
. Actually, their views on things are only represented insomewhat half of the chapters. To really explain this town, Steinbeck chooses to putsome other people’s experiences and happenings in almost every second chapter. Youfollow Doc’s life in most of them, but sometimes, small stories from other people popup. And this is brilliantly written, not only because Steinbeck writes beautifullypoetry-like and engaging, but also because you never really get tired of it; when achapter with Mack’s gang comes to an end, it is followed by something completelydifferent. A great way to show a society!Most of the A to B to A conversations are in the “Mack-chapters” and the “Doc-chapters”, the others are often more told from the author’s view.An example of this is when Steinbeck writes about two soldiers and two girls, walkingin the dawn. He begins with describing the Cannery Row morning-feeling with
“in the gray time after the light has come and before the sun has risen”
.Then he continues with describing the young ones walking and the happiness insidethem. They sit down near a train station and a caretaker says to them that they can notsit there. But they ignore him, and continue with their business.