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The Log from the Sea of Cortez (Penguin Classics)

4.4 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140187441
ISBN-10: 0140187448
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).

After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942).Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright(1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.

The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961),Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata!(1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures. 

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (November 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140187448
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140187441
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Ebeling on September 8, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Steinbeck had a high interest in marine biology, one that helped forge an extraordinary friendship with Ed Ricketts in the 1930s. Ricketts, the model for Doc in CANNERY ROW, was a professional biologist living in Monterey. He proposed an exploration of the Gulf of California and in the spring of 1940 he and Steinbeck set sail on a rented boat with a colorful crew that should have suggested a sea novel along the lines of CANNERY ROW and TORTILLA FLAT. The original result from this trip was the book THE SEA OF CORTEZ, which included the "log" fashioned by Steinbeck and an extensive inventory of the scientific information collected. It was published in the fall of 1941 and promptly forgotten when Pearl Harbor was struck. A decade later, the scientific catalogue was removed and Steinbeck added another section, a moving and often hilarious appreciation of his friend Ed Ricketts. The title became THE LOG FROM THE SEA OF CORTEZ and that's what we have here.
This is a great book for the beach, where I read it. It is filled with the imagery of a warm coastal area. It is several things, really: a book filled with the wonder and scientific knowledge of marine life, a how-to (and sometimes how-not-to) guide for collecting specimens, a travelogue that captures the wilderness communities of Baja California in its time, and an often hilarious account of staying amused at sea with the likes of a crew with names like Tony, Tex, Sparky and Tiny. Steinbeck also takes the occasion to explore his own philosophy as inspired by their studies. Especially interesting is his Easter Day entry, in which he defines and explores at length what he calls "teleological" and "non-teleological" thinking. He gives us much to think about, and does so in clear, fluent prose.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the book that really "turned me around" on Steinbeck. I had been forced to read RED PONY & THE PEARL in High School & while I acknowledged Steinbeck's ability I found his subjects unbearably depressing. LOG FROM THE SEA OF CORTEZ showed me another, funnier, more thoughtful, and more engaging Steibeck that then lead me to CANNERY ROW etc. This is the so-called Narrative Portion of a much longer guidebook co-authored by Steinbeck & Ed Ricketts that was simply called SEA OF CORTEZ and includes both illustrations and keys to the marine intertidal of Baja. The longer version is alas now long out of print & a real collectors item. LOG it turns out is a mixture of an actual travel log as Ricketts, Steinbeck & the crew of the Western Flyer wander in and out of the coves on the eastern side of the Baja peninsula, and also some philosophical essays by Ricketts that I gather actually pre-date th Cortez trip. I have frequently assigned the Easter Sunday chapter to my students as an marvellous discourse on science & scientists, but in fact the whole book is just that -we get a real sense of the joys & follys of field ecology & a wonderful look at an amazing piece of country before it was "discovered" and at least in part spoiled. The book is like a wonderful conversation with two very very smart & funny people & one comes away having learned a great deal & wishing one could have gone along on the original trip.
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Format: Paperback
Like many people of my age (45) I read 'Grapes of Wrath' and 'Cannery Row' as schoolbooks. Steinbeck was 'just' another modern author, one of many in the curriculum, although I enjoyed the writing more than that of some other authors. Thirty years later, I am sitting in Crete, in my favourite town, reading a worn Penguin paperback of 'The Log from the Sea of Cortez'. I bought it for pennies in a charity shop just before leaving for Greece, more out of curiousity than anything else. It is a cliche, but I was captivated. Steinbeck's use of English and his powers to describe a scene and circumstances, with tight narrative, are an object-lesson for would be writers. Since reading about the expedition, I have returned, belatedly, to one of the best authors of the twentieth century. Beware, it is fashionable to reduce Steinbeck to a social commentator whose later work was poorly conceived. Don't believe the hype. This book will take you to a place that no longer exists outside its pages, and it is a glorious description of two friends doing something just because they could. That's all folks!
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Format: Paperback
One of my good friends from high school introduced me to this book after we were both middle-aged. He set the challenge that we should complete this journey together. I look forward to it.
John Steinbeck, the great fiction writer, is just as intriguing as a nonfiction writer. In fact, there is more scope here than in any of the novels.
Steinbeck was fascinated by his friend, Ed Ricketts, Baja California, The Sea of Cortez (located in Baja), the marine life there, and the people along the way. You can read this book for any of those dimensions and be well rewarded. In fact, it is interesting to learn more about Steinbeck, the man, through his reminiscences of this trip.
Although I enjoyed all of these dimensions,to me the element that is most appealing is the story of two friends simply traveling and learning. It is very much a tale of the voyage that we all make through life, by way of analogy. In a way, it reminds me of a literal Pilgrim's Progress, except that this actually occurred. Fact, in this case, is more interesting than fiction.
If you liked Steinbeck's novels, read this. If you like travel stories, read this. If you like stories of scientific research, read this. If you like adventure, read this. Even if you don't fall into one of those categories, read this. Enjoy!
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