Men scooped hysterical frogs like berries.

#############

That’s my six word summary of my favorite scene in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row novel.

I’m on a John Steinbeck kick right now. Many of his novels are under 200 pages and can be read quickly.

I love his clear writing style. I sit there enthralled even when he’s describing how a character is fixing a Model T engine.

And did I mention the frogs?

If you haven’t read Steinbeck, or are looking for a short novel to read, then I recommend Cannery Row. (If you’ve already read Cannery Row, check out Sweet Thursday, the sequel. The Cannery Row Wikipedia page has some interesting info as well.)

Here’s the opening sentence of Cannery Row:

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.

Oh, heck. I can’t stop there. Here’s the whole opening paragraph:

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,” and he would have meant the same thing.

See? Lures you right in.

There is only one main female character in the book – Dora, who runs the whore house.

This might seem unfortunate but, even though her work is unsavory, she’s the most generous character in the book. She’s the one that sits by the bedsides of ill people when influenza strikes; she’s the one who suffered the most financially during the Depression because she gave so much to her neighbors; she’s the one who gives the most money to local charities.

Which goes back to that opening paragraph, where depending on how you look at someone, they are either a whore or an angel.

Now that I think about it, the last scene of the book might be my favorite. Dora and a group of frowzy men are gathered around while Doc reads poetry (not your typical poetry reading). If I were to write a six word story about that scene, it would be this:

Remembering lost loves, Dora breathed beauty.

Share

Tagged with:

Filed under: BooksStories/Storytelling

Subscribe

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!