Friday, June 1, 2012

Cannery Row

Actually, I didn't intend to read this book. But fate had it such that when I was combing the shelves of the library for another book, I saw the words staring at me: Cannery Row. Wasn't that the book that the tour guide repeatedly mentioned on the tour in San Francisco?

This book is thin. That's nice to know. Exceedingly thick books give me a headache. 

Before I continue, the following quote is the one I like most in the book. I actually memorised the page number so that I could retrieve the quote (instead of folding dog ears or writing in the book in pencil- this is library property).
“It has always seemed strange to me...The things we admire in men, kindness and generosity, openness, honesty, understanding and feeling, are the concomitants of failure in our system. And those traits we detest, sharpness, greed, acquisitiveness, meanness, egotism and self-interest, are the traits of success. And while men admire the quality of the first they love the produce of the second.”
This book has a mish mash of characters: Lee Chong (a Chinese grocer), Doc (a marine biologist), Mack and friends (a bunch of guys of laze around), Dora (who owns a brothel) and other random characters. Unlike other books which resolve unknown questions along the way, this book doesn't. It leaves your imagination open by intentionally leaving the plot loose.

Elements of fact and fiction are aplenty. Many of the places described in the book are actually real places in Cannery Row, such as Lee Chong's Grocery which is Wing Chong Market and Doc's laboratory which was Steinbeck's good friend's (Ricketts) laboratory.

I won't elaborate further because the internet has tonnes of sites analysing this book, the characters in it, and how the circumstances in that period of time led him to write this book. But if you are feeling like you need a book that will allow you to question without necessarily giving you an answer, this is it. 


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