Thursday, February 27, 2014

Revisiting Steinbeck

Happy birthday, John Steinbeck.

I’m sharing some characteristic quotes from Cannery Row, perhaps my favorite of his books, though I have many favorites (The Pastures of Heaven, The Red Pony, East of Eden, To a God Unknown).  Certainly one of my favorite places to walk, in the long-ago days, when the tourist hordes hadn’t gotten too thick and the old defunct sardine canneries hadn’t all been displaced by boutique hotels.  I used to love to amble around Steinbeck’s haunts, and was especially interested in visiting the French Hotel, the graceful two-story adobe with garden where Robert Louis Stevenson lived for a time and which figures in Steinbeck’s story “How Edith McGillcuddy Met R. L. Stevenson.”
“Doc tips his hat to dogs as he drives by and the dogs look up and smile at him.”
“Henri the painter was not French and his name was not Henri. Also he was not really a painter. Henri has so steeped himself in stories of the Left Bank in Paris that he lived there although he had never been there.”
“How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise - the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream - be set down alive? When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book - to open the page and let the stories crawl in by themselves.”

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