Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
i picked this up from the library because there was a big "one book/one community" campaign going on. the library staff were trying to get everyone to read the same book and.... talk about it? i don't know. at any rate, i wasn't sure what to expect. i've liked everything i've ever read by steinbeck- east of eden is one of my all-time favorite books. i just found myself dreading it a little before i started reading it and then i realized.. i always dread steinbeck before i start reading him. why? i have no idea. subconsciously, i have something against the guy and i'm just not sure what it is. maybe i'm just scared of him.. afraid i won't "get it" or that he's too "literary" for me.
aaaannnnyyyway, i loved cannery road. it's as simple as that. i loved it. steinbeck reminds me a lot of bukowski. they have a similar rhythm, a similar sense of humor, and a very human way of looking at and interpreting the world.
on the surface cannery road is a story about a town in california and the people who lived in it. beyond that, it's a story about the human spirit. i started to love doc and mack and the boys. i just wanted them all to be happy. and when the book was over i wanted to know that they made good somehow in the end... that they weren't beaten by life and by their crappy little town.
a couple of my favorite passages:
"'You love beer so much, I'll bet someday you'll go in and order a beer milk shake.' It was a simple piece of foolery but it had bothered Doc ever since. He wondered what a beer milk shake would taste like. The idea gagged him but he couldn't let it alone...But then, a man with a beard, ordering a beer milk shake in a town where he wasn't known- they might call the police. You couldn't say you wore a beard because you liked a beard. People didn't like you for telling the truth...they appreciated a liar."
the poem that doc reads at the end of the book is definitely worth a mention, too. i'd never heard of it but now it's one of my favorites. the poem is fifty stanzas long, the following is just a portion of it:
" Even now
If my girl with lotus eyes came to me again
Weary with the dear weight of young love,
Again I would give her to these starved twins of arms
And from her mouth drink down the heavy wine,
As a reeling pirate bee in fluttered ease
Steals up the honey from the nenuphar.
I know I have savored the hot taste of life
Lifting green cups and gold at the great feast.
Just for a small and forgotten time
I have had full in my eyes from off my girl
The whitest pouring of eternal light--"
-Black Marigolds translated by E. Powys Mathers