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Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Tortilla Flat (original 1935; edition 1977)

by John Steinbeck

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3,824581,350 (3.82)1 / 245
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 (46)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (57)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed this walk along the streets of a culture unfamiliar to me. Steinbeck's description of the "Paisanos" in California is delightful and humorous. Although most people would rejoice upon inheriting real estate from a relative, Danny, one of several friends who come to live together in this story, regards it as a burden. Nonetheless, the friends come to enjoy their new life together until Danny comes to miss his old habits of sleeping in the woods and stealing whatever sustenance he needs. This is a fun read from beginning to end. ( )
  Coffeehag | Jan 23, 2015 |
My first book finished in 2015 and one I quite enjoyed. I do appreciate Steinbeck's writing and definitely will seek out more by him in the future. So far I only had read [The Pearl], which I equally liked.

"This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house."

“No, 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.”

Tortilla Flat is a picaresque novella made up of seventeen loosely linked episodes. I felt that this anecdotal style highlighted the dire predicaments of a life in poverty and what it actually means to live on the brink of survival.

“This is the story” of a group of destitute paisanos who aren't interested in living by the system, which in the 1920's meant status and comfort, but prefer a carefree life, mainly wine, enough food and woman. They keep their dignity within a subculture, where conventional values are replaced by values of their own.
Danny is a young man who returns from the First World War and discovers that his uncle has left him two houses. Danny is someone who hasn't done much with his life and actually hasn't got the desire to do so anyway. The houses elevate his social status in Tortilla Flat, but any kind of snobbery is quite alien to Danny.
He becomes the “core” for a gradually expanding group of friends around him. We meet Pilon, Jesus Marie, Big Joe Portagee, Pablo and Pirate. Most of them share his aversion to any regulated activities, everything is shared in Danny's house fraternally.
The paisanos life is poor, but on the other hand it is rich and beautiful, Danny is what holds them together, despite all the economic problems. Life is not planned ahead, lived daily and intense. This rascal's trump card is their friendship, maintained humanity, in an environment of hopeless poverty and humility. Life is about survival and to preserve their own dignity. Even so that most of them are thieves and carpetbaggers, they are portrayed in a manner that you can't do anything else, but like them and feel with them.

“I will go out to The One who can fight. I will find The Enemy who is worthy of Danny.” These are Danny's last words!

Danny was the groups core, their bright light and when this finally expires, the group scatters like the leaves in the wind.
For some reason some parts made me chuckle and reminded me of Neil Gaimans [American Gods] and his [Anansi Boys], and other parts reminded me of “one for all, all for one” from the [Three Musketeers] by Dumas. ( )
  drachenbraut23 | Jan 2, 2015 |
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 |
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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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