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Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck

Tortilla Flat (original 1935; edition 1977)

by John Steinbeck

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5,018831,653 (3.78)1 / 284
In the shabby district called Tortilla Flat above Monterey, California lives a gang whose exploits compare to those of King Arthur's knights.
Title:Tortilla Flat
Authors:John Steinbeck
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1977), Edition: 2nd Printing, Mass Market Paperback, 224 pages
Collections:Your library, North American
Tags:american authors, fiction, nobel prize, own, read in 2011, did not finish

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Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck (1935)


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English (68)  French (3)  Norwegian (2)  Finnish (2)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (82)
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As several of his other books John Steinbeck's Tortilla Flat is set in Monterey, California. Tortilla Flat is part of Monterey and the place where Danny, one of the protagonists, comes to inherit two houses after returning home from fighting in World War I. Danny and his friends are poor and had been homeless before the inheritance. Danny keeps one of the houses for himself and rents the other one out to his friends Pablo and Pilon who basically live there rent-free as no one ever pays rent. When they leave a candle burning overnight the second house burns down and Pablo and Pilon move in with Danny. Soon Danny takes in other friends as well. The story is probably best described by the very first sentence in the novel: "This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house."

The characters in Tortilla Flat are poor, they hardly get by, do not work and are involved in the occasional robbery. They do not really care about having money. Rather they trade whatever is in their possession for wine that they drink together. As a reader you will constantly find them drinking wine or discussing how they can procure the next bottle. One thing is certain, though, they share a very strong friendship and always help one another without expecting anything in return. This is also what makes for the charm of the novel. The characters become very likeable although they cheat and rob others. Companionship and enjoying life is valued more highly than money and material possessions.

While there was not much of a plot on a larger scale, I quite enjoyed reading this short novel for the portrayal of the characters and their life in Monterey, California. 3.5 stars. ( )
  OscarWilde87 | Jul 25, 2021 |
“...John Steinbeck will forever be linked with Monterey, California, and Monterey Bay...”, which is the setting for this book, his fourth, and where I am right now as I begin to re-read this!

Great first sentence - “This is the story of Danny and of Danny’s friends and of Danny’s house.” And of wine and women and rent! And how most of the dollars destined for rent and women end up being used for gallons of wine! There are so many colorful characters in this book - Danny, Pilon, Pablo, Jesus Maria, the Pirate, and Big Joe Portagee - to name a few! A very enjoyable read that made me smile many times!

“Above the Bay, and in Carmel and elsewhere, the shacks and shanties of the paisanos are gone now too, bulldozed...” ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Mar 30, 2021 |
I've not read a lot of steinbeck, but enough to think this was different from anything else I'd read of his. This was one of the most amusing, endearing books I'd ever read. ( )
  GiGiGo | Feb 5, 2021 |
I liked this book, though it took a while to get into the rhythm of it. I love Steinbeck's use of language. The King Athur analogy is interesting, though I didn't always follow it. Is Danny Arthur? Or is Arthur dead? Arthur Morales did die in the Great War, after all. I could re-read this and try to put all that together but I wont.

That was an interesting group of guys in the house. Yes, I am inclined to call them bums but I see Mr. Steinbeck was none too pleased about that in 1937 in an intro to the edition published that year. It was a good story and a different way of looking at the world but not my way and that's okay. Monterey in the 20s and 30s is a fascinating place. Knowing the original readers were much closer in time to this makes me wonder how they received this fairy tale, how much of it resonated with them, instead of my view of "historical fiction".

The intro in my copy mentioned the discussions of a middle aged white guy writing a story about Paisanos who don't work, who fight, who get drunk. Well, he wrote it in 1935 and I didn't think it was indicative of Mexican Americans in general; I was thinking of depression era people, actually, but that is definitely a topic worth discussing.

I felt it was humorous but a little bittersweet. Very fable like. I understand this book is what put John Steinbeck on the map. It probably would not be as well received today. I do feel like I should tackle one of his larger books. ( )
  Chica3000 | Dec 11, 2020 |
This is one of the Steinbeck books I had not read. I love his empathy for the outcasts of society!
( )
  dandailey | Nov 8, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steinbeck, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barbey, Brigitte V.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bovenkamp, J.G.H. van denTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fensch, ThomasIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gannett, Ruth ChrismanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McDonough, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prins, ApieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rotten, ElisabethTranslatorsecondary 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.
Big Joe stole Mrs. Palochico's goat over and over again, and each time it went home.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

In the shabby district called Tortilla Flat above Monterey, California lives a gang whose exploits compare to those of King Arthur's knights.

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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.
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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