Cannery Row

The Stink of Steinbeck's Cannery Row

Steinbeck famously described Monterey, lovingly and honestly, in the beginning of his novel 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. 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 inhabitant are, as the man once said, ‘whores, pimps, gambler 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 holymen" and he would have meant the same thing.”

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Work, Life, and Culture

Monterey was one of Steinbeck’s most beloved cities. Here he worked, lived, and cultivated one of the greatest friendships in the history of both literature and science. Steinbeck’s Monterey is a far cry from the bustling tourist destination that we see today. During his life, his work alienated him from his home, but Steinbeck’s words endure, and his impact on Cannery Row, a street once known to Steinbeck as Ocean View, is now enshrined in bronze statues, busts, and murals.

 

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