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Book Cover Image: Tortilla Flat by John SteinbeckTitle: Tortilla Flat

Author: John Steinbeck

Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):

“Like the knights of the Round Table, the dreamers who gather at Danny’s house share joy and fellowship, triumphs and sorrows.”

Thoughts: I confess that I am not a John Steinbeck fan. I find his work to be utterly depressing and uninspiring. I know I am in the minority here, so I am always on the lookout for a novel of his that will help me see why others consider him one of America’s best writers. Unfortunately, Tortilla Flat is not that novel.

Tortilla Flat is the story about a group of men who all come together in friendship and in drink. They have no money, no jobs, and no ambition. They do have each other, but that does not make for an interesting novel. Instead, one is left questioning the point that Steinbeck was trying to make. Is it a character sketch? Is it an allegory? I honestly did not care to figure it out.

Don’t get me wrong. Danny and his group understand the meaning of friendship in ways that are touching and yet hilarious. They do their best to protect each other and gladly share their good fortunes. Yet, a reader wishes that their fortunes involved earning and drinking more than a gallon or two of wine. It is a scenario that quickly becomes redundant.

The one thing Tortilla Flat does have going for it is the fact that it is completely unlike most of his other works. There is no morality story or expose of conditions of life for the underprivileged. Still, other than a picture of friendship, Tortilla Flat does not offer the reader much in the way of actual plot or action. Steinbeck fans will be impressed by his deviation from his standard writing. Those who remain on the fence about Steinbeck’s supposed genius will do well to leave this one alone.

Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.


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