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Steinbeck is an artist and he tells the stories of these lovable thieves and adulterers with a gentle and poetic purity of heart and of prose New York Herald TribuneAdopting the structure and themes of the Arthurian legend, Steinbeck created a Camelot on a shabby hillside above the town of Monterey,California and peopled it with a colorful band of knights At the center of the tale is Danny, whose house, like Arthur s castle, becomes a gathering place for men looking for adventure, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging These knights are paisanos, men of mixed heritage, whose ancestors settled California hundreds of years before Free of ties to jobs and other complications of the American way of life, they fiercely resist the corrupting tide of honest toil in the surrounding ocean of civil rectitudeAs Steinbeck chronicles their deeds their multiple loves, their wonderful brawls, their Rabelaisian wine drinking he spins a tale as compelling and ultimately as touched by sorrow as the famous legends of the Round Table, which inspired him


10 thoughts on “Tortilla Flat

  1. Roddy Roddy says:

    I learned from this book that I continue to love Steinbeck I despise the idea that he like hemmingway for that matter is sometimes considered a simple writer Here s my opinion Using flowery prose to add weight and impart meaning on a vaporous story is not great literature A substantive story, containing meaning and moral, simply told IS great literature This is what I run into every time I read Steinbeck Hemmingway too Simple construction departing every so often to show off that ye I learned from this book that I continue to love Steinbeck I despise the idea that he like hemmingway for that matter is sometimes considered a simple writer Here s my opinion Using flowery prose to add weight and impart meaning on a vaporous story is not great literature A substantive story, containing meaning and moral, simply told IS great literature This is what I run into every time I read Steinbeck Hemmingway too Simple construction departing every so often to show off that yes, they know EXACTLY what they re describing for the most part just recording the story as they would an event that really happened They don t need a 2 word every couple paragraphs, they need maybe three per book Besides, none of the characters would know the word, so why would you use it to describe them What are you, better than your subject I think the point Steinbeck constantly makes is no, you re not The characters are interesting and simply made, archetypes almost I ve heard its a Camelot tale and I can see it They even use Thou and Thee in some parts But it never seems heavy handed, you can almost see the characters realizing they re playing a part and stepping up to do it Like Cannery Row, its about a lot of down on their luck guys, and the people of the town about them Some richer, some poorer, all with their own little story And Steinbeck seems to love the little side stories Thankfully, he s so quick with his pen they re like brief tangents that come, then go once you ve gotten the point of them He never departs from our subjects forthan a couple pages, never spends 5 pages describing a rock or a particular tree, or even any of the men or the home they live in A story that makes your throat tighten at the end, and makes you wishwell, you re supposed to read it But the desire to keep things as they are is a very strong one in real life, Steinbeck makes you feel that desire and sense of loss in the little world he creates, and it takes him less than 200 pages to do it


  2. Lisa Lisa says:

    Ah, the prayers of the millions, how they must fight and destroy each other on their way to the throne of God I don t know why the sad tales of John Steinbeck fill me with so much joy It doesn t really make sense His is a hopelessly poor world, full of people who are destined to stay in the chaotic situation they call life forever They know how to go through the different stages of heavy drinking, and how to mess up a perfectly fine love story They know how to lose And yet, the knights a Ah, the prayers of the millions, how they must fight and destroy each other on their way to the throne of God I don t know why the sad tales of John Steinbeck fill me with so much joy It doesn t really make sense His is a hopelessly poor world, full of people who are destined to stay in the chaotic situation they call life forever They know how to go through the different stages of heavy drinking, and how to mess up a perfectly fine love story They know how to lose And yet, the knights around the table in Monterey, California arehuman than the heroes in the legends, they are warm and alive and caring Black and white thinking is not for them, and they celebrate the only capital they have to invest the colours of the rainbow reflected in the ocean on a sunny morning.Steinbeck s prose gives me a sense of being part of a whole, part of a community of people who try to enjoy what life throws in your face if it is pleasant or to duck away in time if it is not.Tortilla Flat is as good as any Steinbeck can be, and in my world, that is perfect


  3. Justin Tate Justin Tate says:

    This early Steinbeck novel has the signature style that eventually made him one of the greatest writers of all time, but it never quite moved me like all his later works I think the flaws have to do with he fact that the characters are unable to develop beyond caricature We understand the type of people we re dealing with, but we never really believe in them Probably still a 4 Star book, but a bit of a disappointment when you put it up against all of Steinbeck s other classics.


  4. Brina Brina says:

    John Steinbeck is a master American storyteller whose work is always a treat for me to read Tortilla Flat is one of three of his works I have planned for this year and got me off to a rousing start Tortilla Flat is the first of Steinbeck s novels that takes place in Monterey, California He gives readers a sense of the era of the Depression as well as the place and the scenery The characters of Danny and his friends were comical and fun to read about their exploits as they cope with having li John Steinbeck is a master American storyteller whose work is always a treat for me to read Tortilla Flat is one of three of his works I have planned for this year and got me off to a rousing start Tortilla Flat is the first of Steinbeck s novels that takes place in Monterey, California He gives readers a sense of the era of the Depression as well as the place and the scenery The characters of Danny and his friends were comical and fun to read about their exploits as they cope with having little money but an expensive taste in wine and women The writing is not quite at the level of Mac and friends in Cannery Row yet still flows well One can tell that this was one of Steinbeck s earlier works as his writing isn t as polished here however, a less than stellar Steinbeck still rates among some of the best writing While Cannery Row is my favorite at this point, Tortilla Flat was still an entertaining read I got to immerse myself in Steinbeck s Monterey again and read the book that got his career off the ground I look forward to reading the other of his books I have planned for later in the year as I know that one of Steinbeck s stories will always be a gem 4 stars


  5. James James says:

    Tortilla Flat 1935 was John Steinbeck s first significant literary success both popular and critical Put simply and in Steinbeck s own words, Tortilla Flat is the story of Danny and of Danny s friends and of Danny s house his inheritance.Danny and his assorted friends are paisanos countrymen of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and Caucasian mixed heritage Danny and his band of brothers are essentially, in Steinbeck s eyes, decent people who play life very much according to their own ru Tortilla Flat 1935 was John Steinbeck s first significant literary success both popular and critical Put simply and in Steinbeck s own words, Tortilla Flat is the story of Danny and of Danny s friends and of Danny s house his inheritance.Danny and his assorted friends are paisanos countrymen of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and Caucasian mixed heritage Danny and his band of brothers are essentially, in Steinbeck s eyes, decent people who play life very much according to their own rules This is familiar territory that Steinbeck revisited later to great effect in both Cannery Row and its sequel Sweet Thursday for which Tortilla Flat can be seen as a template In one sense, the stories of Danny and the paisanos feel almost mythological, somewhat biblical certainly and even Arthurian Indeed Steinbeck in his preface to the novel notes that Danny s house is not unlike the Round Table and his friends are not unlike the Arthurian knights of legend.Tortilla Flat was adapted as a film and released in 1942 however Steinbeck was less than impressed with the cinematic depiction of Danny and friends as quaint, underdogs, curious and dispossessed and even suggested that had he known, he may well have not written their stories in the first place Goodness knows what Steinbeck thought of the very Hollywood re writing of the ending of the story Modern and contemporary writers and critics have cited that Steinbeck s portrayal of the paisanos and their way of life, is not an accurate one and does somewhat perpetuate stereotypes of Mexican Americans To that extent, Steinbeck was indeed a product of, and subject to his times These are important points to be raised and conversations to be had but these were very different times and it was a very different America In context, being published in 1935 Tortilla Flat was apparently enjoyed by many American readers as escapism from the Great Depression of the time But in spite of such criticism and the confines of 1935 the brilliance of Steinbeck s work clearly transcends its time and despite contemporary criticism concerning seemingly unintentional racial stereotyping, Steinbeck s work still rings true and strikes many a chord with the 21st century reader some 80 years later.Whilst certainly not in the same league of literary brilliance as East of Eden, Grapes of Wrath etc Tortilla Flat is nevertheless a fine book It is a straightforward, yet powerful story a very human story, simply told with great feeling for the narrative and empathy with the characters


  6. Sarah Sarah says:

    Much has been said about Steinbeck s apparent portrayal of Mexican Americans as lazy, amoral drunkards in Tortilla Flat Some say Steinbeck was racist some say he was just a product of his time Which is right I do not know Steinbeck may very well have been racist he also uses jew as a slur and in several of his books uses unflattering stereotypes of Chinese people I know nothing of the man s personal beliefs about race and it is a common fallacy to suppose an author always agrees with h Much has been said about Steinbeck s apparent portrayal of Mexican Americans as lazy, amoral drunkards in Tortilla Flat Some say Steinbeck was racist some say he was just a product of his time Which is right I do not know Steinbeck may very well have been racist he also uses jew as a slur and in several of his books uses unflattering stereotypes of Chinese people I know nothing of the man s personal beliefs about race and it is a common fallacy to suppose an author always agrees with his narrator But Steinbeck was certainly a product of his time Which begs the question can racism be excused if it s just a product of its time Was it appropriate for Al Jolson to put on blackface makeup and sing Mammy because it wasn t politically incorrect back then Was Twain s depiction of Jim nothan a minstrel show in print And can we, as products or our time, truly judge these things with an unbiased eye Perhaps being a product of his time means something else Perhaps Steinbeck s characterization of these paisanos as layabout drunks had nothing to do with their race and everything to do with the time and area in which they lived Prohibition and the Great Depression made loafing lushes out of men of all races, colors, and creeds Wine was verboten, so men wanted it all theJobs were hard to come by, so eventually men stopped trying This is the impression I got from reading this book not that the paisanos were lazy, drunk, amoral, and poor because they were Mexican, but because in 1935 they didn t have anything else to do


  7. mark monday mark monday says:

    Synopsis itinerant paisanos come together, then come apart.I did not expect to smile and laugh so much This mirthful book is not what I m used to from Steinbeck I knew there would beautiful prose of course, but instead of portraying the usual tragedies small and large, Steinbeck wanted to relax and have fun and he wanted the reader to do the same, much as his characters do Rather than looking upon the futility of ambition of life itself as a dirge, he made his story a joyous folk song Synopsis itinerant paisanos come together, then come apart.I did not expect to smile and laugh so much This mirthful book is not what I m used to from Steinbeck I knew there would beautiful prose of course, but instead of portraying the usual tragedies small and large, Steinbeck wanted to relax and have fun and he wanted the reader to do the same, much as his characters do Rather than looking upon the futility of ambition of life itself as a dirge, he made his story a joyous folk song and a snappy pop hit dedicated to impermanence While still keeping his favored refrain of lives barely lived and humanity in the mud, of course Steinbeck s gonna do Steinbeck, even at his most relaxed.A hallmark of that relaxation, as well as cleverness the author s shifting his dialogue back and forth from 1930s paisano slang I suppose to a very formal and stylized version of medieval English All the better to drive home that this story of wine soused layabouts also functions as a mischievous parody of Le Morte d Arthur.To these modern eyes, there was quite a bit that annoyed The constant use of Jew as both verb and insult, of course although hard to fault the author for what is coming out of his rather sweet but also rather dim characters mouths And hey, Jew is still used the same way today albeit by ignoramuses who should know better, and anti Semites The basic fact that we have a white author portraying various characters of mixed heritage as drunkards, thieves, and fools also bugged Both of those things contributed to my not taking this novel as seriously as I probably should have And that said, Steinbeck s warmth, love, and even admiration for his characters shines through and made such issues almost almost feel minor.The shallowness of the story meant that I took a lot less from Tortilla Flat than I did from my last Steinbeck experience the off putting, depressing, mournful, entirely brilliant Wayward Bus But I sure did enjoy it a lot .3 of 16 in Sixteen Short Novels


  8. Jason Koivu Jason Koivu says:

    Tales of the tall variety about a silly gang of friends whose boy s club antics remind one at times of The Three Stooges or Last of the Summer Wine as they cast about in search of adventure and drink, spinning their own unbelievable yarns while getting drunk, and philosophizing with wild abandon be damned the passing of the day Hell, there s even Yogi Bear ish picnic basket pinching scene Nonsense, it s all nonsense Or is it I seem to recall something quite profound was said somewhere Tales of the tall variety about a silly gang of friends whose boy s club antics remind one at times of The Three Stooges or Last of the Summer Wine as they cast about in search of adventure and drink, spinning their own unbelievable yarns while getting drunk, and philosophizing with wild abandon be damned the passing of the day Hell, there s even Yogi Bear ish picnic basket pinching scene Nonsense, it s all nonsense Or is it I seem to recall something quite profound was said somewhere in there amongst the inane, convoluted logic and self serving prattlemaybe it was the wine talking Steinbeck dips back into the well of central coast California, planting gypsy esque Spaniard immigrants in a fictional town near Monterey called Tortilla Flat, a town and people so colorful he almost runs out of paint while doing their portraits But no, Steinbeck s brush stays charged through out He layers it on, at times too thick for seriousness Thank goodness Tortilla Flat seldom gets too serious Certainly there are solemn moments a death, a beating, friendships tested Occasionally these moments threaten to collapse the whole buoyant structure Perhaps a scene or two is too morbid for this otherwise laugh riot Oh, pass the jug of wine and don t let it trouble you


  9. Lyn Lyn says:

    A rollicking good time.John Steinbeck s 1935 short novel about a Monterey group drunks and ne er do wells fashioned like an Arthurian legend is fun, if a little dated.Steinbeck fans will note similarities with his later works Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday Tortilla Flat was one of his earliest works and his first commercial success.A picaresque tale told with humor and irony, this was also an entertaining glimpse into 1930s California as well as a visit with a very youthful Steinbeck he was 33 A rollicking good time.John Steinbeck s 1935 short novel about a Monterey group drunks and ne er do wells fashioned like an Arthurian legend is fun, if a little dated.Steinbeck fans will note similarities with his later works Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday Tortilla Flat was one of his earliest works and his first commercial success.A picaresque tale told with humor and irony, this was also an entertaining glimpse into 1930s California as well as a visit with a very youthful Steinbeck he was 33 when this was first published Two gallons is a great deal of wine, even for two paisanos Spiritually the jugs maybe graduated thus Just below the shoulder of the first bottle, serious and concentrated conversation Two inches farther down, sweetly sad memory Three inches , thoughts of old and satisfactory loves An inch, thoughts of bitter loves Bottom of the first jug, general and undirected sadness Shoulder of the second jug, black, unholy despondency Two fingers down, a song of death or longing A thumb, every other song each one knows The graduations stop here, for the trail splits and there is no certainty From this point anything can happen


  10. Robert Burdock Robert Burdock says:

    Briefly, Danny, the chief protagonist in this novel, returns from the war to Tortilla Flat a paisano district that sits upon a hillside above Monterey , to find he has inherited two houses What then follows is a comedic tale that fundamentally can be summed up in 5 words wine, friendship, food, women and err..wine again o This is the first John Steinbeck novel I ve had the pleasure of reading, and quite simply it has left an indelible mark on me What captivates me in the first instance is Briefly, Danny, the chief protagonist in this novel, returns from the war to Tortilla Flat a paisano district that sits upon a hillside above Monterey , to find he has inherited two houses What then follows is a comedic tale that fundamentally can be summed up in 5 words wine, friendship, food, women and err..wine again o This is the first John Steinbeck novel I ve had the pleasure of reading, and quite simply it has left an indelible mark on me What captivates me in the first instance is the remarkable talent Mr Steinbeck shows in the quality of his prose He demonstrates an incredible talent for expressing himself literarily, and in the most poetic way I could provide endless examples but as an illustration, instead of penning something simple such as the Pirate used his wheelbarrow to help Danny , Mr Steinbeck eloquently scribes it as then borrowing the Pirate s wheelbarrow and the Pirate to push it, Danny. , which, like the most of the sentences in Tortilla Flat, read like silk If the quality of Mr Steinbeck s prose forms one half of the success of Tortilla Flat, then the sublime depth of his characterisation fills the other half Mr Steinbeck succeeds at magnificently bringing his characters to life Every one is profoundly realised, with each possessing their own idiosyncratic yet appealing qualities It is a difficult choice to make but the most endearing character for me is The Pirate , the man whose head had not grown up with the rest of his body Conscientious, hard working, a man of simple pleasure a pleasure that consists of him either showing affection for his dogs, or working towards winning the approval of his friends , the Pirate epitomizes how a humble, honest and largely pious life should be lived, which superbly juxtaposes the lifestyles of the other friends in the group well, with the exception of Big Joe Portagee o which are as far from pious as one could get.This is not to say that Danny and his friends never show good intentions at heart Mr Steinbeck is masterful at setting his characters on a path of good intention, only for them to either falter, or to manipulate circumstance to meet their own needs This happens a lot, andoften than not, wine plays a role as either the primary motive or betrayer.I truly loved reading Tortilla Flat It is a delightful story, with magnificent characters, and I would consider it to be a work of absolute genius I never thought it could be possible to be completely captivated by an author on the strength of reading one book, but I can state without fear of contradiction that Mr John Steinbeck, thanks to Tortilla Flat, has found a rare place in my heart I look forward to discovering the rest of his collection