copy of Tortilla Flat I've been reading was a birthday gift from my son dated 2012. He is a massive Steinbeck fan and has read all of his books - he has good
taste in literature, I think.
Tortilla Flat (1935) was Steinbeck's fourth published novel and with it he achieved his first taste of real literary success. His first three books had received unimpressive advances from their (three different) publishers, each of which subsequently went bankrupt during the Depression. It is the first of his books that was set in Monterey Bay, California. I had already read two others with similar themes, Cannery Row (1945) and Sweet Thursday (1954), which I enjoyed
immensely and certainly plan to revisit some day.
The novel is set amongst the paisanos, who are in Steinbeck's words "... a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and assorted Caucasian bloods". It follows the exploits of Danny and a small band of paisano 'brothers' who live by a strange philosophical code, shun work of any kind and live their lives tactically, with the application of a certain amount of guile and by their wits. Any money that falls into their hands by fair means or foul they invariably translate into gallons of wine, courtesy of the local tolerated,despised, long-suffering bootlegger Torelli. At the start of the novel, Danny returns home from completing military service in World War One. He is dismayed to discover himself, following the death of his grandfather, the reluctant owner of two
properties in Tortilla Flat, an area in the hills behind Monterey. Danny finds the responsibility of owning property almost too great a burden. His friends move in; Danny knows they will never pay him any rent, which is fine by him.
The language of the group of friends, generally in total contrast to the mundane monotony of their lives, is always heroic, as are the short explanatory introductions that head each chapter. Steinbeck was a lifelong admirer of Mallory, Arthurian Legend, Camelot and its Knights of the Round Table, which parallels those bonds of brotherhood formed between Danny and his comrades in their shared accommodation in Tortilla Flat. This is pleasurable reading at its