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Tortilla Flat

Tortilla FlatTortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some Steinbeck deeply moves me. Some Steinbeck I just find puzzling. Tortilla Flat fits into the latter.

I didn't find it uninteresting, but I found it odd. I'm not really sure what purpose was intended in writing the book.

Set in Monterrey, California around a group of friends who are bums. They don't work, they drink and steal, carouse and fight, and express deep emotions for one another. The central figure is Danny, though his good friend Pilon I found far more interesting. After he returns from WWI, Danny has inherited two houses (he loses one), and his friends come to live in his house with him, the number growing as the book advances.

There is little continuing plot, mostly stringing together of simple little stories of their adventures -- hunting treasure, seducing women, stealing something, throwing a party, etc.

There are also the trademark allusions to paganism which one comes to expect in Steinbeck. Particularly at the end, when Danny rushes off to fight some vague evil force.

So, the novel itself seems to participate in the pointlessness of the friends' lives. Was it an experiment in what a modern novel might be like? I don't know.

But it was not without its merit. The characters and the stories are not lacking in interest, and one could do far worse in picking a book to amuse oneself with for a weekend.

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