The one thing I love about Steinbeck’s writing is his honesty. There’s a true natural quality to his storytelling, which in turn, makes his characters so compelling. The characters in Cannery Row
aren’t heroes, they’re just ordinary people. Yet their stories are told with a simple frankness that’s poignant. It’s also this frank honesty that gives the story its comedy:Each of them got half a water glass of the clear brown liquor. They waited ceremoniously for the captain and then they said, “Over the river,” and tossed it back. They swallowed, tasted their tongues, sucked their lips, and there was a far-away look in their eyes.
Mack peered into his empty glass as though some holy message were written in the bottom. And then he raised his eyes. “You can’t say nothin’ about that,” he said. “They don’t put that in bottles.”
Mack and the boys are wonderful characters. I love them. Their motivation is so simple: Doc is such a nice guy, so let’s do something nice for him! What ensues is total chaos. Yet there’s an innocence that surrounds all of their actions. Because of this natural childlike quality, like Doc, the reader can’t possibly hate them.
My favorite part of this book is the frog hunting scene. I have always loved visual writing and this one scene is brilliantly achieved. It is absolutely horrific! Yet as I was reading, I could feel the fun those boys were having trying to catch those frogs. Cannery Row
is a terrific book and is definitely one of my favorites.