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Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Tortilla Flat (original 1935; edition 1977)

by John Steinbeck

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3,742561,393 (3.82)1 / 234
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 (44)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (55)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
With that title, I don’t mean to make light of John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat. Quite to the contrary. This short novel — which, in my youth, I once knew, read and loved as a ‘novella ’— I just read again. And loved again!

Steinbeck may be as close to a poet (albeit, in prose) as any writer this country has ever produced. But he’s more than a consummate prose writer. As a humorist, I believe he ranks right up there with Mark Twain — or maybe just a smidgen beneath. In any case, both men were superb observers (and chroniclers) of human nature. Both paid homage to Thomas Malory (of King Arthur fame): Steinbeck, with this novelette; Twain, with A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. And both carried on a tradition that would’ve done Malory proud.

As Thomas Fensch (who wrote the Introduction to the Penguin Classics version I just read) suggests, “…Steinbeck values the Arthurian legends and the paisanos too highly to demean either. By adding the language of the paisanos and their convoluted moral code to his novel, he elevates them toward Arthurian status, without demeaning them or the tales of the knights that he was captivated by throughout much of his life.”

Read Tortilla Flat for the unmitigated fun of it. Unlike Flannery O’Connor (whose Wise Blood I recently read and reviewed), I don’t believe Steinbeck looks down upon his rough-‘n’-tumble characters; if anything, he idolized them.

We should, too. They’re all knights errant of a different — and much more contemporary — century. And given the not dissimilar economic climates of Steinbeck’s novelette and our own times, I would suggest that Tortilla Flat is indeed both topical and relevant.

Now, on to Cannery Row!

Brooklyn, NY

( )
  RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous!!! This story takes me to another place and time and immerses me in it. I was there with these wonderful characters through all their trials and tribulations, culminating in a mythological climax. A perfect story. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 24, 2014 |
This is Steinbeck's best book. Not his best writing, necessarily, but from the perspective of one who lived in the Salinas Valley and worked on these farms, eking out a marginal existence (until wandering into the digital age, as did we all), I know and love these characters like few others in Steinbeck's work. Each of Steinbeck's novels has its advocates, perfectly understandable, but none has a place in my heart quite like this book. ( )
  mattus | Sep 30, 2014 |
Kind of sad ( )
  winecat | Sep 21, 2013 |
Steinbeck has created a world here that I have no direct experience of. Homeless alcoholic hobo males. When Danny inherits a house it becomes a hub for the local drifters who all share in its shelter. These guys are so much more than lonely drifters though, they have a camaraderie and sense of loyalty that is rock solid...if it is decided that someone needs wine then the money is found, loaned, stolen, obtained through the sale of stolen goods and it is provided. It is shared and it is enjoyed. The reason it is needed provides the rationalisation for the crimes committed to obtain it. And it is decided pretty much every day that wine is needed.

Sometimes, quite often, this rock solid loyalty is bent for the sake of one of the groups own personal need, but there is always a rock solid reason why this must be so. The excuses and reasoning that each character comes up with is pure comedy. But their situation, however happy they appear in it, is really quite dire. It is a sad story, presented in such a way that makes it seem so normal and so inevitable. ( )
1 vote Ireadthereforeiam | Aug 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Steinbeckprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bovenkamp, J.G.H. van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fensch, ThomasIllustratorsecondary 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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:26:56 -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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