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Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Tortilla Flat (original 1935; edition 1977)

by John Steinbeck

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4,069681,248 (3.8)1 / 260
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 (55)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  English (67)
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
After the Cannery Row, this seemed extremely unoriginal. It's best of all to read that one that this one too, the ending was somehow uplifting in that one, and this one's just depressing. The book was a lot more boring as well, but maybe just cause it seemed like a dumb copy of the other one. ( )
  avalinah | Sep 11, 2016 |
Tortilla Flat, by John Steinbeck (read 16 Aug 2016) This is the 8th book I've read by Steinbeck, I read his The Grapes of Wrath on 17 Mar 1949, and then read In Dubious Battle on 30 May 1971, Of Mice and Men on 22 Jan 1996, Cup of Gold on 22 June 197, The Red Pony on 6 June 2000, East of Eden on 21 Feb 2001, The Pearl on 16 March 2003, and Cannery Row on 19 June 2006. Tortilla Flat is smoothly written, tells evocatively of Danny, who returns from soldiering in World War One to find his grandfather has died and left hin two houses in the Tortilla Flat section of Monterey, Cal. His friends gradually move in with him and their carefrree l;ife, devoted to wine drinking and loose living is related with sympathetic words, often evoking laughter in the reader. I could not admire the lifestyle depicted but the account is somewhat heart-warming. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Aug 16, 2016 |
I don't recall when I first read Tortilla Flat but it must have been during my teen years. I didn't remember it as a favorite and never re-read it until now. There's a certain amount of charm to the cast of characters here, a ragtag group of layabout paisanos led by Danny who live in the hilly area above the town of Monterey. The manner of storytelling, with a mimicry of King Arthur's knights of the round table also adds a bit of charm. One can only listen to so many thees and thous however. My personal problem with the book is that I just can't identify with the drunken no-account lets steal the neighbors chickens, throw rocks through the windows on Alvarado street life, and the "charm" here wears thin. These guys would do anything but work. There are some interesting little vignettes and character sketches in here that pretty much save the story but I had my fill of drinking yourself into a stupor until the house burns down pretty early on.

In a sense I'm breaking my own rules on reading Steinbeck where I try not to put a late 20th/early 21st century sensibility on early 1930's life, but it is what it is. I'm pretty sure I felt this same way in the 60's or 70's when I first encountered this. These guys are serious alcoholics who drink gallons of wine and steal and slum their way for more wine or brandy.

Danny goes looney toons near the end and destroys his little paisano Camelot.

I listened to much of the story via an audiobook narrated by John McDonough. He does an excellent job reading this with a relaxed pace just about perfect for the story. It works well listened to in small chunks since it is an episodic story. I did a bit of spot reading/recapping as well as reading the last portion of the story from a physical paper book.

There are better Steinbeck stories than this one. ( )
  RBeffa | Jul 27, 2016 |
From the Preface: "This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house. It is a story of how these three become one thing, so that... when you speak of Danny's house you are understood to mean a unit of which the parts are men, from which came sweetness and joy, philanthropy and, in the end, a mystic sorrow."

In his first commercial success, the 1935 “Tortilla Flat” shares the tales of Danny and his friends in their adventurous lives of the self-chosen unemployment while living in two houses that Danny inherited from an uncle. Thematically, Steinbeck himself compared Danny and his friends to Arthur and his knights while the house is the round table with an oath of devotion expressed via food (and wine). Despite owning the houses raised Danny’s status on the impoverished neighborhood, they were burdens that Danny never wanted.

Perhaps it’s my own mistaken expectations, but mischiefs far dominated philanthropy. Act for act, though they may be loyal to each other, they were otherwise bullies, drunks, thieves, and cheats. I developed no affinity for any character except the slow-witted Pirate and his 5 loyal dogs. The first half of the book drew this group together, while the second half had random tales of their adventures leading up to the spectacular ending that then disbanded the group. I was truly glad that Steinbeck took the ending to the dark side giving it a rightful finality. While there are parallels to “Canary Row” with the camaraderie amongst transients, “Tortilla Flat” is far better organized with an ending that left impressions of bleakness, rage, and depression.

Though I had little affinity to the characters, there is an undeniable charm to their simple existence. Material value, a vacuum – a shiny object that doesn’t function without electricity in their area, caused an uproar, and the reveal that it lacked a motor implies an emptiness of such modern conveniences. The artfulness of his writing emerged with implied images of action but not the exact action itself – on stealing food: “They did not take the basket, but always afterward their hats and their shirts were stained with deviled eggs.” This is a solid worthy read, and I pity the nine publishers that had turned it down. :)

Some quotes:

On kindness:
“Out of some deep pouch in his soul Jesus Maria drew kindness that renewed itself by withdrawal.”

On being 50 – yikes:
“Her mother, that ancient, dried, toothless one, relict of a past generation, was nearly fifty.”

On confessions:
“Teresina went often to confession. She was the despair of Father Ramon. Indeed he had seen that while her knees, her hands, and her lips did penance for an old sin, her modest and provocative eyes, flashing under drawn lashes, laid the foundation for a new one.”

On sexual prowess:
“A dying organism is often observed to be capable of extraordinary endurance and strength… When any living organism is attacked, its whole function seems to aim toward reproduction…. No one kept actual count, and afterward, naturally, no lady would willingly admit that she had been ignored; so that the reputed prowess of Danny may be somewhat overstated. One tenth of it would be an overstatement for anyone in the world.”

On impending doom:
From Danny: “’Am I alone in the world? Will no one fight with me? ...Then I will go out to The One who can fight. I will find The Enemy who is worthy of Danny!’” ( )
1 vote varwenea | Feb 21, 2016 |
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 |
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Steinbeckprimary authorall editionscalculated
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
First words
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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