Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
(Centennial Edition)

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I thought the prose was magnificent. I didn’t like the story much: I found the characters unappealing (but my husband found them delightful). But oh, how well drawn!
-Rhapsody in Books


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.

About John Steinbeck

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No writer is more quintessentially American than John Steinbeck. Born in 1902 in Salinas, California, Steinbeck attended Stanford University before working at a series of mostly blue-collar jobs and embarking on his literary career. Profoundly committed to social progress, he used his writing to raise issues of labor exploitation and the plight of the common man, penning some of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century and winning such prestigious awards as the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He received the Nobel Prize in 1962, "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception." Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
Published February 1, 1993 by Penguin Books. 196 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Action & Adventure, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Cannery Row
All: 9 | Positive: 7 | Negative: 2


on Oct 05 2011

The plot is tenuous, held together by the characters. But Steinbeck succeeds in making them human, likable, out of drawing but never in caricature. And one feels that to him, too, they are part of the flavor of a folk legend of today.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Cornelia Dean on Jan 18 2005

The book is less successful when it comes to Ricketts's emotional life...But it is valuable nonetheless.

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Book Reporter

Reviewed by Judith Handschuh on Jan 21 2011

Steinbeck writes about his collection of misfits with wisdom, humor, and poignancy. Readers can't help but fall in love with these colorful characters and cheer them on as they reveal their hopes and dreams.

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Amerian Scientist

Reviewed by Bruce Robison on Nov 01 2004

This is not a full-blown biography. Rather, it illuminates what has been a shadowy but important part of Ed Ricketts's life, and it leaves us wondering what might have been. I liked this book so much that I read it twice.

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Rhapsody in Books

Below average
on Aug 07 2011

I thought the prose was magnificent. I didn’t like the story much: I found the characters unappealing (but my husband found them delightful). But oh, how well drawn!

Read Full Review of Cannery Row: (Centennial Edit...

Lit and Life

Reviewed by Lisa on Nov 27 2012

Well, sure it is a novella largely populated by men, but it never feels like a book solely written to appeal to men. And it is not, in any way, depressing. It is, at it's heart, about friendship, camaraderie, and being content with the life you have.

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The Bluestocking Society

Above average
Reviewed by Jessica Anderson on Apr 02 2008

The vignette narration style allows Steinbeck to include dark elements while keeping the overall tone a notch above neutral. The undercurrent of darkness is, though, rather dark.

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Above average
Reviewed by BuzzFlash on Jan 28 2007

...hopefully, we'll all live to see that true spirit of America - its people, so brilliantly drawn by Steinbeck in "Cannery Row" - again emerge as Americans awaken from our dream-fog of consumerism and hellish wars...

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Reviewed by Jess on Mar 15 2010

Cannery Row is a deceptively simple story – the inhabitants of a street gather to throw a party for an honoured resident – but the heart and the faith in humanity that Steinbeck imbues this story with is amazing, and difficult to forget.

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