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Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Tortilla Flat (original 1935; edition 1977)

by John Steinbeck

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3,931631,310 (3.82)1 / 251
Title:Tortilla Flat
Authors:John Steinbeck
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1977), Edition: 2nd Printing, Mass Market Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library

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Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (1935)


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English (51)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Tortilla Flat is about a group of drunken slackers and their friendship with each other. When Danny inherits a house, one by one, all his friends end up moving in with him, and although they have nothing, they somehow manage to take care of each other’s basic needs.

I wasn’t fond of any of the characters at first, but by the middle of the book, they had grown on me. The strength of their friendship with each other and the simple, free lives they lead are really touching and nostalgic. It’s definitely not one of Steinbeck’s best books, but it comes together quite nicely by the end. ( )
  AmandaL. | Jan 16, 2016 |
The ne'r do well paisanos of Tortilla Flat, a piney, ramshackle wood above the shoreside Monterrey, are colorfully featured here. Danny's little house becomes shelter for his buddies, all of whom live day by day on pawned and pilfered items - mostly traded for remnant food and gallon jars of wine. Chapters are vignettes focused on another adventure, usually introducing another paisano to the fold. Sparks of wit and common-man philosophy keep the stories lively. Steinbeck is one of my tried and trues. I read this in his Library of America collection of stories, 1932-37. ( )
  JamesMScott | Jan 5, 2016 |
Frankly, I do not know what to think about John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat. On the one hand, this 1935 novel is an entertaining look at life through the eyes of a bunch of men whose biggest concern in life is where their next bottle of wine is coming from; on the other, the novel tends to leave the impression that everyone living in the Tortilla Flat section of Monterey, California, is shiftless and lazy. And that impression, considering that all the characters in Tortilla Flat are (or would be called in today’s terms) Hispanics, is not one that leaves the reader very comfortable.

Danny and his friends are actually “paisanos.” As Steinbeck puts it, a paisano “is a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and assorted Caucasian bloods. His ancestors have lived in California for a hundred or two years…when questioned concerning his race, he indignantly claims pure Spanish blood and rolls up his sleeve to show that the soft inside of his arm is nearly white.”

Danny’s crew has more in common than the love of drink. He and several of his friends, in a moment of drunken patriotism, joined the military at the outbreak of World War I, and now they have returned one-by-one to Tortilla Flat to resume the lives they temporarily abandoned. The boys had varying degrees of success during the war. Danny himself never left the States, others of them saw the fighting, and at least one of them spent most of the war in the brig. But now they are home and they have resumed a shiftless lifestyle that sees them working only long enough to earn the next bottle or two of wine.

Then Danny receives something of a mixed blessing when he inherits the two Tortilla Flat houses owned by his elderly grandfather. His neighborhood prestige and status are immediately enhanced, but Danny is quick to feel the burdens of property ownership - and, rather than being excited by his windfall, Danny is troubled and unhappy. It is only when his friends begin to move into his houses with him that Danny is finally able to settle into his new lifestyle, but even then he misses the carefree (and often violent) lifestyle that he lived before the war. Danny simply misses his old life:

“When Danny thought of the old lost time, he could taste again how good the stolen food was, and he longed for that old time again. Since his inheritance had lifted him, he had not fought often. He had been drunk, but not adventurously so. Always the weight of the house was upon him; always the responsibility to his friends.”

Danny and his friends may be living lives filled with personal tragedy, but they live and love exactly as they wish. They are their own men and, although most of us would condemn their habits and their lifestyles, they are happy. But looking at the novle through today’s eyes, I still don’t know what to think of Tortilla Flat. Is it insensitive and unfair, or is it simply a well-written product of its times? Each of us, I suppose, will have to decide that for ourselves. ( )
  SamSattler | Oct 29, 2015 |
Tortilla Flat is the rambling, episodic story of a group of friends living in a poor Hispanic village near Monterey, California shortly after the end of WWI. Mostly they drink a lot of wine, steal or scam money to get more wine, take up with various women, fight each other, and support each other in their own idiosyncratic ways.

It's hard to know quite what to make of this one. It's certainly not what I expected after Of Mice and Men, which is the only other Steinbeck I've read so far. The tone is much lighter and more comic, and very drolly written... except when it's not, as there are moments, especially near the end, where the mood shifts and there are glimpses of odd, hard-to-make-out depths and difficult-to-pin-down emotions. It's interesting, but it's hard to know exactly what it all adds up to. And even though Steinbeck treats his characters with genuine humanity and affection, it's hard to escape the fact that they echo some really unpleasant stereotypes, and it's impossible not to feel a little uncomfortable about that. But, man, that Steinbeck guy could write. There are some marvelously crafted, insightful little turns of phrase here. Nothing flowery, nothing that calls attention to itself, just perfect little pieces of prose, gently doing their job of telling the story. Which probably makes the novel worthwhile all by itself.

Rating: This one is unbelievably hard to rate. I keep trying to give it less than a 4/5, but I just can't get myself to do it, apparently because I've fallen just that hard for the guy's writing style. So I guess 4/5 it is. But maybe with an asterisk. ( )
  bragan | Aug 26, 2015 |
In "Tortilla Flat," Steinbeck takes us to a town inhabited by paesanos, locals with mixed Mexican, Native American, and Caucasian heritage. In the years after World War I, a group of men come back with little purpose in life except to sit in the sun and drink wine, and occasionally take a breather in the local jail. What's been accused of a racist portrayal of these men (an accusation that's not without merit) also lends to a humorous account of a group of friends who have their own set of ethics and societal rules. It's a world where paying the rent is not as important as friendship. (In a hilarious passage, one of Danny's friends who owes him rent talks himself out of giving Danny money because his friend might use it to buy candy for a lady and try some himself, which would be bad for him.) Danny is the character who brings everyone together in the postwar years. One by one, a friend comes to live with him after he inherits two houses when his grandfather dies. Though an heir, Danny (like his friends) are happiest with the simple life; money and property only complicate matters. When Danny buys a gal he's sweet on a vacuum cleaner, a luxury no one else in the neighborhood has, not least because no one has electricity to use such a machine, it causes an uproar. Days are spent by sleeping, drinking, fighting, and chasing women, and the only ambition any of the men has is to scrounge enough coins together to buy some bootleg wine. But there is honor found here and there among the friends. Danny lodgers respect his place as homeowner by not sleeping in his bed. After the friends go to great lengths to try to steal the Pirate's money hoard, they back off when the Pirate himself offers it to them for safekeeping, the honor of being trusted worth more than the money inside the bag.

For all the troubling feelings one gets when reading about minorities being portrayed as shiftless, lazy, con artists, he injects these people with enough humanity and humor to temper it. They are alternately naive and clever, untrustworthy and honest, lusty and chaste. But there is something kind of noble about their lives, the way they find their greatest happiness in social interaction instead of riches and property. Perhaps Steinbeck idealizes their poverty too much, but tales in "Torilla Flat" show that humanity is still present even when wealth is not. ( )
  StoutHearted | Aug 17, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Steinbeckprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bovenkamp, J.G.H. van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fensch, ThomasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gannett, Ruth ChrismanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDonough, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prins, ApieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rotten, ElisabethÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vittorini, ElioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Susan Gregory of Monterey
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This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house. (Preface)
When Danny came home from the army he learned that he was an heir and an owner of property.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Adopting 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 rectitude.

As 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.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140042407, Mass Market Paperback)

Adopting the structure and themes of the Arthurian legend, Steinbeck created a "Camelot" on a shabby hillside above Monterey on the California coast and peopled it with a colorful band of knights. As Steinbeck chronicles their thoughts and emotions, temptations and lusts, he spins a tale as compelling, and ultimately as touched by sorrow, as the famous legends of the Round Table.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:59 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

In the shabby district called Tortilla Flat above Monterey, California lives a group of jobless Hispanic men who, in complete disregard of social conventions and expectations, cheerfully reside in a world of idyllic poverty.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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