Cannery Row

Cannery Row

by John Steinbeck
4.0 140

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Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Steinbeck's tough yet charming portrait of people on the margins of society, dependant on one another for both physical and emotional survival

Published in 1945, Cannery Row focuses on the acceptance of life as it is: both the exuberance of community and the loneliness of the individual. Drawing on his memories of the real inhabitants of Monterey, California, including longtime friend Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck interweaves the stories of Doc, Dora, Mack and his boys, Lee Chong, and the other characters in this world where only the fittest survive, to create a novel that is at once one of his most humorous and poignant works. In her introduction, Susan Shillinglaw shows how the novel expresses, both in style and theme, much that is essentially Steinbeck: “scientific detachment, empathy toward the lonely and depressed…and, at the darkest level…the terror of isolation and nothingness.”

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781440630361
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/01/1993
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 4,419
File size: 670 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902–1968) was born in Salinas, California. He worked as a laborer and a journalist, and in 1935, when he published Tortilla Flat, he achieved popular success and financial security. Steinbeck wrote more than twenty-five novels and won the Nobel Prize in 1962.

Jessica Hische is a letterer, illustrator, typographer, and web designer. She currently serves on the Type Directors Club board of directors, has been named a Forbes Magazine "30 under 30" in art and design as well as an ADC Young Gun and one of Print Magazine’s "New Visual Artists". She has designed for Wes Anderson, McSweeney's, Tiffany&Co, Penguin Books, and many others. She resides primarily in San Francisco, occasionally in Brooklyn.

Date of Birth:

February 27, 1902

Date of Death:

December 20, 1968

Place of Birth:

Salinas, California

Place of Death:

New York, New York


Attended Stanford University intermittently between 1919 and 1925

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Cannery Row 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 140 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first when I started Cannery Row, I figured it was going to be a boring story I might not finish. As I read further, it grew better. Cannery Row tells the story of the local characters living and working around an area of defunct canning factories, set in the 1940's. It feels like the biography of a small town, with the setting and emotions, as characters. This stands out from other stories because it feels gritty, but it is not a sad, disgusting gritty it is more a melancholy, sleepy sort of gritty. The story has the feeling of a perpetual Sunday morning, being laid back, but without the worries of Monday. Even though Cannery Row is sleepy and meanders along, the humor is not. Sometimes, the humor isn¿t obvious you won¿t know something is going to be funny right off, instead you¿ll unconsciously get the joke later in the story. Other times, the humor builds up like suspense and you¿ll know what¿s coming long before the characters know anything is wrong. The first few chapters are short stories they set up the characters so you¿ll understand everyone¿s motives and personalities during the main plot. The characters are well developed, forming great mind pictures from the shrewd general store owner Lee Chong, Doc the kind and quiet marine biologist, to Mack the carefree, almost philosophical leader of the bums at the Palace Flophouse. The story is also compelling because of the variety of subjects. I found the parts about Doc¿s job of collecting fish and seashells interesting because I knew nothing about it detail Steinbeck went into led you to feel as if you were with doc, knee deep in clear seawater learning about the ocean firsthand. Doc and the girl in the water was attention-grabbing and sad because nothing like it had happened previously in the story. Also the different types of stories within the main story added curiosity. Steinbeck takes time exploring each character¿s past actions, which makes this story a great melting pot of emotions and feelings. If you aren¿t interested in books with ¿meaning¿, and you only enjoy books with action filled plots, you might not want to read this now. If you only read a few books during your lifetime, make this one of them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I completely agree with che'ek. I first started reading it and got about 80 pages in and stopped for a while. I started to read it more and it turned out to be one of the best books I've ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is poetry. Episodic, full of great characters, gritty, a feel for life in Monterey that is long vanished. Perhaps not ultimately as profound as Grapes of Wrath, but futher evidence of Steinbeck as a great american novelist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first started reading Cannery Row, I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I thought it was a drug out story with no plot and these stupid little interchapters between. But, I forced myself to read more, and it got better. It got better because I understood it more. Cannery Row isn't about the story, it's about what's behind it. There are so many themes and lessons that will shine through if you take the time to look back and reflect after you finish the novel. I HIGHLY recommend reading the introduction by Susan Shillinglaw after you read the book, because that's when it will make sense. THEN THE READER CAN TRULY APPRECIATE THE BOOK, AND TAKE SOMETHING AWAY FROM IT AS WELL.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you like a sweet, entertaining, and witty novel, then Cannery Row is the book for you. The small fishing town of Cannery Row is home to some of the most eccentric characters. I loved reading about the unusual, friendly, and clever characters in their day to day life. Steinbeck's poetic language makes this book worth the read. He describes the town and everyone in it with great imagery. I would recommend this book to junior high and above, because it might not be understandable to younger kids. Cannery Row is all-around an enjoyable book to read that leaves you feeling caring and happy.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
The reader is welcomed to Cannery Row by being informed that it becomes itself only after the work that gives the area its name ceases.  It then becomes “quiet and magical” with the stories that create it can, like those who inhabit the Row, only “crawl in by themselves” (p.2-3), as they cannot be forced into obedience.  These stories are of people, their relationships and how that synergy creates a world of community so close knit that all are accepted because none need fear being rejected.   Cannery Row is home to unforgettable characters.  Lee Chong, the original “Sam Walton” whose small shop stocks everything (but discounts nothing - EVER).  Dora Flood, the “Mother” of the row and proprietor of “The Bear Flag Restaurant” whose “girls” serve specials never listed on the menu, if The Bear Flag had a menu as it is not a restaurant.  Mack, Hazel (so named because he was the seventh child born to his parents in eight years and his mother forgot he was a boy), Eddie, Hughie and Jones who serve as the “caretakers” of the Row while not being bothered with consistent employment or knowing the lack of sustenance.  Finally there is Doc, owner and operator of Western Biological Laboratory who is the heart that causes the Row to be sustained.   The book is arranged by observations of these characters as they go about their lives with each other on The Row connected by short chapters of philosophical musings about what was just seen.  These “musings” were reminiscent of those conversations once held on front porches, around wood stoves, dorm rooms late at night or over cups of various libations.  What is achieved in this manner is a feeling of inclusion and a depth of meaning that was somehow not present before the book was opened.  Merely by “observing” those on The Row as they go about living, the author is able to bring the reader back to a clearer look at him/herself. The book is a classic, it has been read for generations in high school and college classes and it merits this label.  The language is spot-on for each character (there is some “adult” language used) and the movie (starring Nick Nolte and Debra Winger) is good but cannot reflect the power the book offers.  The narrator plays with the disbelief of the reader, causing her/him to be reminded that this is not reality and they are only observing the Row from a distance, the response is that akin to watching a play unfold. Listening to the book helps to dim the illusion of the fourth wall (between the fiction and the reader).  This technique is a safety net for those moments when the book becomes a little too close. The frog expedition to the Carmel River and the ensuing birthday party for Doc (which he knew nothing of even though it was at his house) are two instances where this was true and they are worth reading the book in themselves.   I am glad I visited Monterey, twice in fact, in one summer.  The first was the glitzy, tourist Mecca in a breathtaking setting.  The second was the “magical” place full of quirky, often unsafe, unpredictably dependable people whom d0 not realize how special they are.  Now that I read that last sentence, the reason I enjoyed this book so much is clearer, it sounds like my hometown.
davidc0469 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Cannery Row.A shorter story by Steinbeck standards it had great characters ranging from Doc who is widely looked up to in this town and Mac and his followers who live in the palace flop-house and don't work or have any real concerns in life.Dora runs a whore house and as a whole the town is small an all who live in this town know eachothers business. The story flowed well ,but as a whole it just did not have the impact of other Steinbeck classics. However it was an enjoyable read and I will will now read the 2nd part of the story - Sweet Thursday and give my rating from there. DNC
Anonymous 9 months ago
Vivid characters, straightforward description, often profound insight and a forgiving humanity inhabit Stienbeck's ' Cannery Row'. A wonderful respite from the harshness of today.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in and glances around stuned "beautiful"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another of Steinbeck's amazing writings!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Knowing that on our upcoming visit to California we would visit both Cannery Row in Monterey and the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, as well as have lunch at the Steinbeck House, I decided I'd better pick a Steinbeck novel to read. I had read Grapes of Wrath many years ago, but, otherwise, knew very little about Steinbeck or his writing. After reading some of the posted reviews on this site, I wasn't sure that I'd even finish reading Cannery Row. I started reading it on our flight to Monterey and found that it was much more readable and interesting than I thought it would be. Of course, as I walked down Cannery Row in Monterey, Steinbeck's characters kept popping out at me and made me more interested in the book. I will try another bit of Steinbeck after reading this book, also in part because of our visit to the Steinbeck Center which gave so much background information on both Steinbeck and his writing.
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