The Infinite Echo

B. Thomas Cooper is a freelance journalist, photographer, blogger and historian. Topics include Political Commentary, Satire and History

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Review -John Steinbeck-Tortilla Flat

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor

John Steinbeck, the voice of American conscience, and a true literary genius. His work has grown increasingly important in these modern times, these devoid of his ceaseless grace and passion. His words hang like crystal chandeliers in a world inhabited by shadows. John Steinbeck is more than a novelist. He is our reflection.

Tortilla Flat represents Steinbeck’s first critical and popular success as a novelist. Comprised of seventeen ‘episodes, Tortilla Flat documents the events surrounding a group of ‘paisanos living on the fringes of society in the fishing community of Monterey, California nearly a century ago.

It is a story of Danny’s house, and Danny’s friends. It is a story of loss and redemption, and more loss. It is a tale of meaningless triumph, of alcoholism, of loneliness and of friendship. Steinbeck warns the reader of such impending peril, and delivers with great sadness. Such is the fabric of Tortilla Flat.

Ultimately, Tortilla Flat confronts the basic tenets of morality, steeped in a shadowy broth. Sometimes humorous, but always painful in it’s analysis, the story tumbles and slides down the slopes of humanity. Blood and wine are equally spilled, and the loss is communally shared.

The story ends as it begins, full circle, cryptic and proverbial. It is Danny’s house and these are Danny’s friends. Like the candle that burns in the evening, and by morning, was never there, Tortilla flat tells us of a world that existed once, but only within the bounds of it’s own jurisdiction. With Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck does not create a world we wish to share, but instead shares a world with us created by others. A world created by Danny and his friends.

Born February 27th, 1902 John Steinbeck grew up in Salinas California, and much of his writing is centered around these peoples of the coast. Perhaps best known for his depression era masterpiece, Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck wrote several unforgettable novels, including Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, East of Eden and The Pearl. Steinbeck passed away on December 20th, 1968, but his writing lives on.

“Now it is over”, remarks Pilon, friend of Danny’s and fellow resident of Tortilla Flat. “Now the great times are done. Thy friends will mourn, but nothing will come of their mourning.” Perhaps Pilon was correct all along.

B. Thomas Cooper - Editor

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