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Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Tortilla Flat (original 1935; edition 1977)

by John Steinbeck

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4,025701,270 (3.81)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 (57)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (69)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  Schmerguls | Aug 16, 2016 |
It's been a long time since I've read Steinbeck and this was one of his books I had never looked at, but I love Monterey. So, I picked this up at the library and seriously? I wish I had those two hours back.

Sure, the time period was difficult and the Depression affected everyone regardless where they lived or their ethnicity. But, there's nothing redeeming about any character here. There is nothing compelling about the story and no reason for me to even want to write a review about it.

I'm sure that there are English teachers out there who glory in having their students review drivel like this, but I can think of a lot more books more worthy of my time. ( )
  2kidsandtired | Aug 2, 2016 |
It's been a long time since I've read Steinbeck and this was one of his books I had never looked at, but I love Monterey. So, I picked this up at the library and seriously? I wish I had those two hours back.

Sure, the time period was difficult and the Depression affected everyone regardless where they lived or their ethnicity. But, there's nothing redeeming about any character here. There is nothing compelling about the story and no reason for me to even want to write a review about it.

I'm sure that there are English teachers out there who glory in having their students review drivel like this, but I can think of a lot more books more worthy of my time. ( )
  2kidsandtired | Aug 2, 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 |

In the town of Tortilla Flat above beautiful Monterey lived a group of men called the paisanos. They were drunkards, thieves, ruffians, and vagabonds, but they were also surprisingly good at heart; requiring little more from life than friendship and a little wine. Among these paisanos were Danny, Pilon, Pablo, Jesus Maria, and Big Joe Portagee. When the First World War broke out, these paisanos decided to enlist in a fir of drunken patriotism. None of them actually made it anywhere near combat, and soon returned to Monterey to find it more or less as they had left it. One thing was different however, Danny's grandfather had died and left Danny two houses.

Pilon is the first to find Danny after the war, and Danny allows his friend to rent the other house from him. Gradually, the rest of the group turns up, and Pilon convinces them to rent rooms in the second house. One night, after a good amount of wine, the house burns down, and though Danny is angry at first, he allows the friends to move in with him. At Danny's house, they form a group, which Steinbeck often compares to the Knights of the Round Table. Indeed, they engage in many quests, some noble, and some downright sinful, enjoying companionship and the comfort of a roof to the fullest.

Most of the group's quests revolve around the acquisition of money, but in one case, they find a new friend instead. There was a paisano in town named the Pirate who was somewhat slow witted. He could be seen walking the streets and perusing the restaurants for scraps with his five dogs (his best friends and protectors). He chopped wood every day and sold it for a quarter in town. Pilon noticed that the Pirate never spent any money, and deduced that he must be hiding it somewhere. Pilon follows the bum all over trying to locate the stash, going so far as to invite him to stay in Danny's house so that they can keep a better watch over him. In living with the pirate, the friends grow compassionate for him, however, and one day the Pirate simply turns over the money to the friends so that it will be safe. The large bag of coins becomes the symbolic center of the friendship.


As the months pass, many more stories accumulate around the group. On St. Andrew's Eve Pilon and Big Joe think they have found treasure but it turns out to be a signpost for a geological survey. There are affairs with women, but the companionship within the group is much stronger than the affections any of them have for women. In the end, the romantic paisano returns to the group having relearned this lesson. In many cases, the paisanos provide a service to a needy party. One time, they house and feed a distraught caporal from the Mexican Army with his baby when the two have nowhere else to go. Another time, they save the large family of Senora Teresina Cortez from starvation when the local bean crop fails.

Sometimes there is wine, and sometimes there is food, but there is always the pleasure that each of them receives from the company of the others. Eventually the Pirate reaches his goal of one thousand quarters and buys a golden candlestick for Saint Francisco. The friends have a small party for this occasion with hamburger meat and wine bought from the plunder of a downed coast guard ship. When there is nothing going on, they rather spend their days in philosophical discussion of town gossip, enjoying the sun on their front porch. Often the stories are scandalous, but there is always a lesson to be learned from them.

The monotony of the paisano way of life and the weight of property ownership begins to wear on Danny, however. For a month, he sits on the porch with his friends brooding over memories of nights sleeping in the forest and the infinitely better taste of stolen food. In the end, the weight is too much and Danny gives into to his desires to reexperience his youth. He disappears into the woods and goes on a month long crime spree. He steals from everyone, including the members of his own household. Husbands all over town call for vengeance for what he has done to their wives, and the police swear that he will be arrested on sight for his vandalism and fighting. Mr. Torrelli, the wine merchant, even produces a note that Danny has signed authorizing the sale of the house for $25 dollars. Luckily, the merchant did not think to make a backup copy and the paisanos quickly dispose of the original. When Danny finally returns, he is tired and pleased with the fun he has had, but the growing sense of age is still with him.

Seeing their friend and their host in such a state, the friends of the house decide to cure him with a party. For the first time in their lives, the five, along with Tito Ralph, the jailer, and Johnny Pom-Pom go to work in the squid yards. Word of this earth-shattering event quickly spreads through Tortilla Flat and soon it is leaked that they are trying to make money to have a party. The whole town gets behind their effort, preparing food, digging up long saved booze, and buying wine and decorations. At four-thirty, Danny gets up and goes for a walk in the direction of Monterey and while he is gone, neighbors swarm on the house, decorating it. At five-thirty, the seven friends walk home with fourteen gallons of wine bought with their day's wages. They set out to find Danny and get the party started. Pilon and Pablo find him gloomily standing on a dark pier in Monterey. Pablo later swears that he saw an unearthly black bird hanging over Danny's head. When they give Danny word of the party, he is invigorated and the three race back up the hill to get things started.

It is said that Danny drank three gallons of wine by himself that night, and no woman in town would admit that he passed her up in his marathon of affairs. The party became legendary for its greatness. Everyone in the whole town was there and they danced so hard that the floor of the house caved in at points. More than thirty gallons of wine and a keg of potato whiskey were consumed. Unfortunately, the night ended in tragedy. After the good-natured fights that ritually accompanied a night of drinking, Danny was not finished. He picked up a table leg and challenged the entire world to a fight. When no one took the challenge, he charged outside, screaming that if no one would fight him then he would pit himself against an enemy worthy of his efforts. Danny plummeted to fatal wounds in the forty-foot drop to the bottom of the gulch behind his house. No one was sure what really happened, but everyone was sure that they had heard Danny fighting with some supernatural enemy before he let out his last scream of defiance.

Danny's funeral is a public debacle of fine clothes, stolen flowers, and military splendor. The paisanos cannot attend, however, for if they enter the proceedings in their poor clothes it would be a disgrace to Danny's memory. Instead, they watch from afar until they cannot stand the sorrow any longer and burst into tears. That night, they drink more wine and talk fondly of Danny's memory. They sing songs that he liked and smoke cigars provided by Tito Ralph. As Pilon attempts to relight one of the cigars, the match flutters out of his hand and ignites a newspaper in the corner. At first, they all get up to stamp the fire out, but they change their minds. The house dies, as Danny did, in one last blaze of glory. When there is nothing but ashes left, the friends depart, each going his separate way. ( )
  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
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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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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)

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