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Cannery Row Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1993

4.4 out of 5 stars 573 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Winner of the 2012 Fifty Books/Fifty Covers show, organized by Design Observer in association with AIGA and Designers & Books

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Praise for Penguin Drop Caps:

"[Penguin Drop Caps] convey a sense of nostalgia for the tactility and aesthetic power of a physical book and for a centuries-old tradition of beautiful lettering."
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“Vibrant, minimalist new typographic covers…. Bonus points for the heartening gender balance of the initial selections.”
—Maria Popova, Brain Pickings

"The Penguin Drop Caps series is a great example of the power of design. Why buy these particular classics when there are less expensive, even free editions of Great Expectations? Because they’re beautiful objects. Paul Buckley and Jessica Hische’s fresh approach to the literary classics reduces the design down to typography and color. Each cover is foil-stamped with a cleverly illustrated letterform that reveals an element of the story. Jane Austen’s A (Pride and Prejudice) is formed by opulent peacock feathers and Charlotte Bronte’s B (Jane Eyre) is surrounded by flames. The complete set forms a rainbow spectrum prettier than anything else on your bookshelf."
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"Classic reads in stunning covers—your book club will be dying."

About the Author

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.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140177388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140177381
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.5 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (573 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reading CANNERY ROW on the heels of TORTILLA FLAT, the reader quickly notices many parallels between the two novels, both of which spotlight the ironies of human existence, including its happiness, despair, success and failure, and how conventional wisdom often fails dismally in describing the realities of existence. Despite the many parallels and equivalencies between them, however, the two novels differ in tone and treatment, if not in theme, and are equally worthy of the reader's attention. In fact, the reader's grasp of Steinbeck's commentary on life will remain incomplete if only one of the novels is read. By all means, learn from both.

CANNERY ROW shows us many great ironies, not the least of which is the fact that "Mack and the boys," a group of down-and-out bums, seem to be more content and fulfilled with their lot in life than is "Doc," the professional man who operates the Western Biological Laboratory. Doc is alone in the world; he lacks that human attachment that brings comfort and connectedness to those who are otherwise adrift in an uncaring universe. He has lost his only lover some time before our story begins, and his stumbling across the corpse of a beautiful, drowned girl is a painful reminder of that loss. An even more poignant reminder of his alienation from humanity comes in the words of Frankie before he is isolated in an insane asylum. Frankie's simple answer of "I love you" sends Doc retreating to the seclusion of his laboratory.

Contrasted with the loneliness of Doc, we find a fulfilling camaraderie among Mack and his cohorts.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I wish I knew how to convey to you the importance of reading this book and how I think it will change your life for the better. I could tell you it's my favorite book, but that probably wouldn't work because most people who know me think that I'm am a idiot. How about there's a whole chapter about a gopher? No? Animal hater, huh? Well there's people in it too. Normal people with all the normal flaws, the normal lost dreams and the normal well-meaning plans that don't quite pan out.

The story is about life on Cannery Row and the everyday people who live there. There's a whole cast of wonderful characters but the most respected is Doc and the people of Cannery Row decide they want to show Doc their appreciation and throw him a surprise party.

I've read a number of Steinbeck's gloomier books and I loved them all but "Cannery Row" holds a special place in my heart (even after repeat readings) because it's so bright and sunny and it makes me happy. There's plenty of sad things happen in the book - suicide by rat poison, suicide by stabbing, a heartbroken gopher, a sad boy with no future, a dead girl - but even with all that sadness there's an overall feeling of happiness, like everything is going to be alright. It's hard to explain. How about you just read the book and find out for yourself?
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
Steinbeck resists the pessimistic strain that runs through much 20th-century literature of alienation and despair. His is essentially a positive, "comic" vision in that he affirms the human community, all the more so if it comprises outcasts and eccentrics who reject the conventions and materialist values of the dominant culture in favor of the more "natural" as well as mystic order represented by Doc. Mack and the boys, along with most of the other inhabitants of Cannery Row, embody a democratic, inclusive social order founded on genuine diversity--of character and lifestyle more than color, ethnicity, or religion. In fact, they have much in common with the lovable and vital mischief makers of Shakespeare's King Henry IV plays, though Steinbeck's Doc cannot bring himself to be as heartless as Shakespeare's Prince Hal. Falstaff and company are allowed to remain in Steinbeck's version. They're as essential to the vitality and strength of the human community as the debris that contributes to the cycle of life represented by the tide pools.

One striking example of Steinbeck's worldview is the automobile. Unlike Fitzgerald's symbol of American aspiration and status, of danger and tragedy, Steinbeck's machine is distinguished by the working symmetry of its parts and by its relation to resourceful, inventive human beings capable of adapting and modifying it to their own purposes--which aren't primarily selfish but directed toward the survival and celebration of the community which it serves. Gay's mechanical expertise inspires the narrator in Chapter 11 to proclaim: "Two generations of Americans knew more about the Ford coil than the ..., about the planetary system of gears than the solar system of stars. With the Model T, part of the concept of private property disappeared.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Cannery Row is Steinbeck at his best. It is a great example of Steinbeck's humorous side as well as some sad commentary on the state of mankind. Freddy's fate, the drowned girl, and the chapter in which the boy makes fun of friend's father committing suicide make it clear that Steinbeck is trying to do more than just write a feel good novel for his readers recovering from WWII. Steinbeck seems to want to make clear to the reader that the tragedy that often is the reality of life is always lurking somewhere in the background. Despite some of the gloomy chapters, Steinbeck does an excellent job of creating memorable characters who move through their lives in a laid back manner that reflects the character of Cannery Row itself. In fact, the town of Cannery Row becomes as much a character in the novel as Doc. Mr. Lee, or Mac and the boys. By having the fickle moods of Cannery Row change as portrayed by the weather and scenery Steinbeck uses the living element of the town to move the reader through the story. I highly recommend this novel.
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