Tortilla Flat

by John Steinbeck

Other authorsThomas Fensch (Introduction)
Paperback, 1997

Call number




Penguin Classics (1997), Edition: Reprint, 174 pages


Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:Adopting the structure and themes of the Arthurian legend, John Steinbeck created a �Camelot� on a shabby hillside above the town of Monterey, California, and peopled it with a colorful band of knights. At the center of the tale is Danny, whose house, like Arthur�s castle, becomes a gathering place for men looking for adventure, camaraderie, and a sense of belonging�men who fiercely resist the corrupting tide of honest toil and civil rectitude.   As Nobel Prize winner Steinbeck chronicles their deeds�their multiple lovers, their wonderful brawls, their Rabelaisian wine-drinking�he spins a tale as compelling and ultimately as touched by sorrow as the famous legends of the Round Table, which inspired him.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member jnwelch
[Tortilla Flat] is another piece of irresistible [Steinbeck] writing. The odd part is I wanted to resist. It's a story about Danny and his friends and Danny's house. They're all paisanos, i.e. "a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican, and assorted Caucasian bloods" whose "ancestors have lived in
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California for a hundred or two years." Danny inherits a house, two actually, from his viejo, and his friends gather there with him. What I didn't like: the paisanos on Tortilla Flat don't really seem real, and the portrayal is far from flattering. The story is more like a parody fairy tale. Possible Spoilers: Danny and his friends repeatedly steal from the inhabitants of Tortilla Flat, but nonetheless are viewed as harmless and charming. Really? Danny gets violent and is still found charming. Really? And I didn't like the racial epithets. Because they're spread around, they're, I'm sure, supposed to be considered acceptable. But does someone trying to make money always have to be called a "Jew"? Do the Sicilian fisherman really have no problem with Danny spewing racist insults at them? Would paisanos really appreciate being portrayed like this?

Danny and his friends drink all the time, and seem to live to find more wine. They steal all the time, and we hear virtually zero about the effect on their victims. When Danny inflates the status of a young woman with a gift and then later he tires of her and his friends steal it back, we hear nothing more about her. None of this sounds particularly appealing, does it?

So why are we charmed? Ah, that wizardly Steinbeck.

"Then Jesus Maria, in a frenzy of gratefulness, made a rash promise. It was the grappa that did it, and the night of the fire, and all the deviled eggs. He felt that he had received great gifts, and he wanted to distribute a gift. 'It shall be our burden and our duty to see that there is always food in the house for Danny', he declaimed. 'Never shall our friend go hungry.'

Pilon and Pablo looked up in alarm, but the thing was said; a beautiful and generous thing. No man could with impunity destroy it. Even Jesus Maria understood, after what was said, the magnitude of his statement. They could only hope that Danny would forget it."

The endearing descriptions of them, their lovely way of expressly themselves, their grand elevated emotions, and the practical hope that Danny will forget it, occur in different forms throughout the book. We find ourselves rooting for them despite their repeated reprehensible behavior. In part it's because we love rascals who live outside the 9 to 5 daily grinds that the rest of us have to live - wouldn't it be wonderful to get up at noon and then go out and sit on the porch near the rose bush and let the sun warm you? To burn pine cones in the fireplace at night and talk contently about the village gossip with your simpatico friends? In part it's the intrigue of how are they going to find food and the beloved wine day after day without gainful employment?

In part it's the hypnotizing effect of Steinbeck's writing, and the contrarian way of life that finds a silver lining everywhere. For example, when Danny briefly gets inspired to clean a begrimed window in the house, he is quickly persuaded not to do it:

"The window remained as it was; and as time passed, as fly after fly went to feed the spider family with his blood and left his huskish body in the webs against the glass, as dust adhered to dust, the bedroom took on a pleasant obscurity which made it possible to sleep in a dusky light even at noonday."

At times the grandiloquence in this fairy tale reminded me of Don Quixote, living a different reality than the rest of us, and at times of the simple but lofty statements in a Hemingway novel. But the paisanos' actions are rarely anything other than self-serving and detrimental to others. Possible Spoiler As in [Cannery Row], one of their noblest gestures is throwing a big party for Danny which, as in [Cannery Row], ends in disaster. A difference is the lovable mugs in [Cannery Row] were sensitive about hurting others, and tried to be harmless. The group in this one are charming rogues, but for me their one-for-all and all-for-one insularity left me uncomfortable and a bit resentful that Steinbeck uses his wizardry to exalt them. He doesn't seem like the kind of guy to thumb his nose at us, but throughout he seems to be saying, see, I can make you love even these reprobates. And he succeeds. Maybe there's a message somewhere in that, but it's a discomfiting one.
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LibraryThing member msf59
“This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house.”

This is our introduction to the “Paisanos”. A shaggy group of men; shiftless, hard-drinking and mostly good-natured, living aimless lives, in a small house on a dusty hill above Monterey California. They work
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occasionally, but mostly hunker in the shade, philosophize and devise ways to acquire the next gallon of wine.
This book put Steinbeck on the map, but it is lighter and more humorous in tone, than the hard-hitting socially conscious work, he will soon turn to. It is a pleasant tale, brimming with a cast of colorful and charming characters and I recommend it.

"The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight.”
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LibraryThing member rburdock
Briefly, Danny, the chief protagonist in this novel, returns from the war to Tortilla Flat (a paisano district that sits upon a hillside above Monterey), to find he has inherited two houses. What then follows is a comedic tale that fundamentally can be summed up in 5 words - wine, friendship, food,
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women and again :o)

This is the first John Steinbeck novel I've had the pleasure of reading, and quite simply it has left an indelible mark on me. What captivates me in the first instance is the remarkable talent Mr. Steinbeck shows in the quality of his prose. He demonstrates an incredible talent for expressing himself literarily, and in the most poetic way. I could provide endless examples but as an illustration, instead of penning something simple such as "the Pirate used his wheelbarrow to help Danny", Mr. Steinbeck eloquently scribes it as "then borrowing the Pirate's wheelbarrow and the Pirate to push it, Danny..", which, like the most of the sentences in Tortilla Flat, read like silk.

If the quality of Mr. Steinbeck's prose forms one half of the success of Tortilla Flat, then the sublime depth of his characterisation fills the other half. Mr. Steinbeck succeeds at magnificently bringing his characters to life. Every one is profoundly realised, with each possessing their own idiosyncratic yet appealing qualities. It is a difficult choice to make but the most endearing character for me is "The Pirate', the man `whose head had not grown up with the rest of his body'. Conscientious, hard-working, a man of simple pleasure (a pleasure that consists of him either showing affection for his dogs, or working towards winning the approval of his friends), the Pirate epitomizes how a humble, honest and largely pious life should be lived, which superbly juxtaposes the lifestyles of the other friends in the group (well, with the exception of Big Joe Portagee :o)) which are as far from pious as one could get.

This is not to say that Danny and his friends never show good intentions at heart. Mr. Steinbeck is masterful at setting his characters on a path of good intention, only for them to either falter, or to manipulate circumstance to meet their own needs. This happens a lot, and more often than not, wine plays a role as either the primary motive or betrayer.

I truly loved reading Tortilla Flat. It is a delightful story, with magnificent characters, and I would consider it to be a work of absolute genius. I never thought it could be possible to be completely captivated by an author on the strength of reading one book, but I can state without fear of contradiction that Mr. John Steinbeck, thanks to Tortilla Flat, has found a rare place in my heart. I look forward to discovering the rest of his collection.
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LibraryThing member LovingLit
Steinbeck has created a world here that I have no direct experience of. Homeless alcoholic hobo males. When Danny inherits a house it becomes a hub for the local drifters who all share in its shelter. These guys are so much more than lonely drifters though, they have a camaraderie and sense of
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loyalty that is rock solid...if it is decided that someone needs wine then the money is found, loaned, stolen, obtained through the sale of stolen goods and it is provided. It is shared and it is enjoyed. The reason it is needed provides the rationalisation for the crimes committed to obtain it. And it is decided pretty much every day that wine is needed.

Sometimes, quite often, this rock solid loyalty is bent for the sake of one of the groups own personal need, but there is always a rock solid reason why this must be so. The excuses and reasoning that each character comes up with is pure comedy. But their situation, however happy they appear in it, is really quite dire. It is a sad story, presented in such a way that makes it seem so normal and so inevitable.
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LibraryThing member John
John Steinbeck: Tortilla Flat

The opening lines of the novel set the tone and structure:

"This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house. It is a story of how these three became one thing, so that in Tortilla Flat if you speak of Danny's house, you do not mean a structure of
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wood flaked with old whitewash, overgrown with an ancient untrimmed rose of Castile. No, when you speak of Danny's house you are understood to mean a unit of which the parts are men, for which came sweetness and joy, philanthropy and, in the end a mystic sorrow."

Danny and his friends, are paisanos, "a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican, and assorted Caucasian bloods". They live in a poor uphill district above the town of Monterey. They basically live to drink rotgut wine. Days are spent figuring out how to steal or earn or sell something for wine, and occasionally food. Stealing is the usual method because they have nothing of value to sell (unless they steal it); earning money, for instance cutting squid in the harbour, is very much a last resort.

Growing up, Danny, "preferred to sleep in the forest, to work on ranches, and to wrest his food and wine from an unwilling world." He is known around town as a character: tough, lawless, and living for the moment. But one day, "he left for all time his old and simple existence", because he inherits two houses. These are poor abodes, but Danny has become a man of property. That counts and that changes him.

Danny rents one house to friends Pablo, Pilon, and Jesus Maria, who never actually pay any rent. When they carelessly burn the house down, they feel an obligation to move in with Danny to take care of him, and they are joined by two other friends, Big Joe Portagee and Pirate. The latter is inseparable from his five dogs who glory in the names: Enrique, Pajarito, Rudolph. Fluff, and Sir Alec Thompson. A series of picaresque adventures follow involving a good deal of drinking, the interactions of the friends constantly living by their wits, jail, and women free in sharing their virtues. In sum, a lifestyle that the good citizens of Monterey would have looked upon with dismay and disdain. Danny and his friends live according to their own rules, however, it is not a lifestyle devoid of norms: Big Joe is nearly beaten to death, quite methodically, when his friends discover that he stole money from one of them; as soon as the beating is over, the friends are solicitous of his well-being, and minister to his wounds.

The men have no material wealth, nor do they desire it. They present an unencumbered tableau in which their needs for caring and friendship play out: " do good and to be rewarded by the glow of human brotherhood accomplished." Despite their simple lives and aspirations, the complexities of moral life do not escape them. People may delude themselves concerning their own virtues, and deride those who live differently, but life is not so cut-and-dried:

"It is astounding to find that the belly of every black and evil thing is as white as snow. And it is saddening to discover how the concealed parts of angels are leprous. Honour and peace to Pilon, for he had discovered how to uncover and to disclose to the world the good that lay in every evil thing. Nor was he blind, as so many times saints are, to the evil of good things."

Critical commentary on Tortilla Flat emphasizes parallels with the legend of King Arthur: the force ‎of one man inspiring fealty and love and sacrifice, the power of the group bonded by common purpose, the group living for that purpose by its own codes of conduct. But, once the driving force of the central personality is gone, the group has no further purpose. Danny's life is a cautionary tale of the effects of cohesion founded on a single leader. The traits of commitment and service to a virtuous leader, are the same as those that can lead to sacrifice for, and obeisance to, a tyrant.

Danny is an enigma. He begins to dream of the freedom he enjoyed earlier in life, he sees that his friends never change, he begins to brood over "lost time" when food tasted good because it had been stolen. He moves out of the house and lives wild and alone, stealing and drinking. His friends try to entice him back his old self by throwing the biggest and wildest party ever seen in Tortilla Flat, a party that will be spoken of with awe years later. The excesses of the party feed the excesses of Danny's soul. He becomes "huge and terrible...There was something fearsome about him." No one will take up his challenge to fight, so he goes out, "to The One who can fight. I will find the Enemy who is worthy of Danny!" Everyone is terrified, they hear "his roaring challenge....They heard Danny charge into the fray. They heard his last shrill cry of defiance, and then a thump. And then silence."

To return to the beginning, in the end the, "talismanic bond" embodied in Danny and the house, is broken. The power and identity and coherence that the friends drew from it are gone; without the bond, they are again aimless individuals. The last line of the novel: "And after a while they turned and walked slowly away, and no two walked together."
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LibraryThing member AshRyan
Tortilla Flat isn't so much a novel as a set of interconnected stories. A lot has been made of how it is supposedly based on the legends of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, but that is only true in the same sense as (and to a lesser extent than), say, Joyce's Ulysses is based on
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Homer's Odyssey.

*Spoiler Alert*

It tells the story of a group of bums, one of whom, Danny, inherits a couple of houses from his uncle. He rents the second house to his friends, but they accidentally burn it down while drunk and all move in with him. They literally do nothing but drink wine, and try to figure out ways to get more wine (without having to pay for it).

At the end, Danny's friends actually work for an entire day(!) so they can throw him a big party to try and get him out of the funk he's fallen into. It works, and at the party Danny becomes his old self again. But, when the party gets out of hand and turns violent, Danny is killed in a drunken accident. His friends do not attend his funeral, instead burning his house down on purpose.

In spite of all this, or rather because of it, Steinbeck clearly wants us to admire these characters. He is not being satirical when he compares them to Arthur and his knights. Hell, Danny isn't just Arthur, he's practically Jesus...after all, Christ and his disciples were basically a bunch of bums (who loved wine) too!

As you can probably guess, I'm not very sympathetic to the view of life Steinbeck presents here. But Tortilla Flat is at least better as literature than, say, The Grapes of Wrath (though not as good as, say, East of Eden). You'd be slightly better off reading Steinbeck's later work Cannery Row, though, which is basically the same book, but some of the stories are a bit more amusing and the ending isn't quite as horrible (though it's nearly as pointless).
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LibraryThing member fuzzy_patters
Tortilla Flat is loosely drawn from the Arthurian Legend and features Danny as King Arthur and a group of his paisano friends as his court. As with the medieval legends, Danny and his friends are at times gallant, ornery, lazy, quirky, moody, foolish, and brilliant in their simple way. The
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characters are all lovable and comic even when they are doing horrible things that they shouldn't be loved for.

Likewise, the book itself was lovable and a joy to read even when there are parts that should have been uncomfortable. Steinbeck has a wonderful ability to take the grotesque sides of us and make them lovable. In this case, he took the poverty of people living on the outskirts of Monterey, California and all of the poor decisions and bad things that they might do in their circumstance and made them both heroic and comical. This is the brilliance of Steinbeck, and this is a very good book.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
Tortilla Flat, by John Steinbeck (read 16 Aug 2016) This is the 8th book I've read by Steinbeck, I read his The Grapes of Wrath on 17 Mar 1949, and then read In Dubious Battle on 30 May 1971, Of Mice and Men on 22 Jan 1996, Cup of Gold on 22 June 197, The Red Pony on 6 June 2000, East of Eden on 21
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Feb 2001, The Pearl on 16 March 2003, and Cannery Row on 19 June 2006. Tortilla Flat is smoothly written, tells evocatively of Danny, who returns from soldiering in World War One to find his grandfather has died and left hin two houses in the Tortilla Flat section of Monterey, Cal. His friends gradually move in with him and their carefrree l;ife, devoted to wine drinking and loose living is related with sympathetic words, often evoking laughter in the reader. I could not admire the lifestyle depicted but the account is somewhat heart-warming.
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LibraryThing member varwenea
From the Preface: "This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house. It is a story of how these three become one thing, so that... when you speak of Danny's house you are understood to mean a unit of which the parts are men, from which came sweetness and joy, philanthropy and,
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in the end, a mystic sorrow."

In his first commercial success, the 1935 “Tortilla Flat” shares the tales of Danny and his friends in their adventurous lives of the self-chosen unemployment while living in two houses that Danny inherited from an uncle. Thematically, Steinbeck himself compared Danny and his friends to Arthur and his knights while the house is the round table with an oath of devotion expressed via food (and wine). Despite owning the houses raised Danny’s status on the impoverished neighborhood, they were burdens that Danny never wanted.

Perhaps it’s my own mistaken expectations, but mischiefs far dominated philanthropy. Act for act, though they may be loyal to each other, they were otherwise bullies, drunks, thieves, and cheats. I developed no affinity for any character except the slow-witted Pirate and his 5 loyal dogs. The first half of the book drew this group together, while the second half had random tales of their adventures leading up to the spectacular ending that then disbanded the group. I was truly glad that Steinbeck took the ending to the dark side giving it a rightful finality. While there are parallels to “Canary Row” with the camaraderie amongst transients, “Tortilla Flat” is far better organized with an ending that left impressions of bleakness, rage, and depression.

Though I had little affinity to the characters, there is an undeniable charm to their simple existence. Material value, a vacuum – a shiny object that doesn’t function without electricity in their area, caused an uproar, and the reveal that it lacked a motor implies an emptiness of such modern conveniences. The artfulness of his writing emerged with implied images of action but not the exact action itself – on stealing food: “They did not take the basket, but always afterward their hats and their shirts were stained with deviled eggs.” This is a solid worthy read, and I pity the nine publishers that had turned it down. :)

Some quotes:

On kindness:
“Out of some deep pouch in his soul Jesus Maria drew kindness that renewed itself by withdrawal.”

On being 50 – yikes:
“Her mother, that ancient, dried, toothless one, relict of a past generation, was nearly fifty.”

On confessions:
“Teresina went often to confession. She was the despair of Father Ramon. Indeed he had seen that while her knees, her hands, and her lips did penance for an old sin, her modest and provocative eyes, flashing under drawn lashes, laid the foundation for a new one.”

On sexual prowess:
“A dying organism is often observed to be capable of extraordinary endurance and strength… When any living organism is attacked, its whole function seems to aim toward reproduction…. No one kept actual count, and afterward, naturally, no lady would willingly admit that she had been ignored; so that the reputed prowess of Danny may be somewhat overstated. One tenth of it would be an overstatement for anyone in the world.”

On impending doom:
From Danny: “’Am I alone in the world? Will no one fight with me? ...Then I will go out to The One who can fight. I will find The Enemy who is worthy of Danny!’”
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LibraryThing member Joycepa
Steinbeck was born in Salinas and grew up in the Salinas/Monterey area. That he loved the region and its people is abundantly clear in many works such as Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row. In particular, he had great affection for the not-so-respectable; Tortilla Flat is a collection of stories about a
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group of paisanos—“a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and assorted Caucasion bloods”, speaking “English with a paisano accent and Spanish with a paisano accent.” They live in a run-down, shabby neighborhood uphill of Monterey proper known as—Tortilla Flat.

Newly returned from service in World War I, Danny, a paisano, discovers that he has inherited great wealth in the form of two house (more like shacks) in Tortilla Flat. Settling in to one, he decides to rent out the other to one of his friends, Pilon. Who is about as broke and averse to steady work as Danny himself. Before long, in an attempt to get up the rent, more friends of Danny’s move in with Pilon until they end up with an amicable and stable household.

Using this starting point, the stories go on to describe the activities and the lives of Danny, his friends, and the other residents of Tortilla Flat. Seemingly as disorganized and the paisanos, the stories are skillfully told in language that mimics “English with a paisano accent”. The effect is utterly charming and frequently hilarious. Ne’er-do-well scoundrels they may be, but they are endearing nevertheless.

The book ends with what should be a tragedy and yet somehow is not. Somehow it is totally fitting in a paisano way just as Gotterdamerung is a tragedy, but totally fitting for the people in its world.

Written in 1935 in a deceptively simple style that never seems dated, Tortilla Flat deservedly brought Steinbeck to notice. It’s an affectionate, enduring work.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Tortilla Flat is an impoverished area near Monterey, California, inhabited by ne'er-do-wells described on the back cover of my edition as "a colorful gang whose revels recall the exploits of King Arthur's knights ... gutsy denizens ... curiously childlike natives." The group's leader is Danny, a
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man whose social status is instantly raised when he inherits his family property. The rest of the gang moves in, expressing intent to pay rent but never actually doing so. The group increases in size, and each day their sole aim is to find a way to get one or more gallons of wine and spend the evenings making it disappear. They are very loyal to one another, but swindle other people and treat women poorly.

I read just over half of this book's 207 pages, but found the group's escapades repetitive and boring and was unable -- unwilling -- to continue.
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
This was Steinbeck's first big success, but it came saddled with misinterpretation. He wasn't pleased with critics who thought he was making fun of the lower class in Monterey, California. I fell into the same trap of viewing it as satire, but these characters receive too much narrative respect and
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the descriptive passages are too beautifully done not to grant there's something deeper. There's a nobility in their readinesss to take life as it comes, and in the care they take to justify their actions.

A parallel to the story of King Arthur's round table is clearly stated in the first chapter, and there's reminders of this when one character or another suddenly spouts dialogue in the fashion of "thees" and "thous", entirely unremarked upon, before lapsing back into normal language. There's also a parallel in the novel's plotting, where each chapter seems like another adventure of these 'knights' and often introduces a new member of the party. The conclusion is therefore apt and inevitable, but tragedy has its flip side and this novel is often just plain funny (the vaccuum cleaner; the plot for pirate treasure; the minor crime wave; etc). Pilon especially is entertaining, and even characters seen in passing can inspire a chuckle (the shopkeeper who puts out his 'Back in 5 minutes' sign and goes home for the day). It's funny because it's real, but all good things must inevitably reach their end.
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LibraryThing member drachenbraut23
My first book finished in 2015 and one I quite enjoyed. I do appreciate Steinbeck's writing and definitely will seek out more by him in the future. So far I only had read [The Pearl], which I equally liked.

"This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house."

“No, when you
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speak of Danny's house you are understood to mean a unit of which the parts are men, from which came sweetness and joy, philanthropy and, in the end, a mystic sorrow.”

Tortilla Flat is a picaresque novella made up of seventeen loosely linked episodes. I felt that this anecdotal style highlighted the dire predicaments of a life in poverty and what it actually means to live on the brink of survival.

“This is the story” of a group of destitute paisanos who aren't interested in living by the system, which in the 1920's meant status and comfort, but prefer a carefree life, mainly wine, enough food and woman. They keep their dignity within a subculture, where conventional values are replaced by values of their own.
Danny is a young man who returns from the First World War and discovers that his uncle has left him two houses. Danny is someone who hasn't done much with his life and actually hasn't got the desire to do so anyway. The houses elevate his social status in Tortilla Flat, but any kind of snobbery is quite alien to Danny.
He becomes the “core” for a gradually expanding group of friends around him. We meet Pilon, Jesus Marie, Big Joe Portagee, Pablo and Pirate. Most of them share his aversion to any regulated activities, everything is shared in Danny's house fraternally.
The paisanos life is poor, but on the other hand it is rich and beautiful, Danny is what holds them together, despite all the economic problems. Life is not planned ahead, lived daily and intense. This rascal's trump card is their friendship, maintained humanity, in an environment of hopeless poverty and humility. Life is about survival and to preserve their own dignity. Even so that most of them are thieves and carpetbaggers, they are portrayed in a manner that you can't do anything else, but like them and feel with them.

“I will go out to The One who can fight. I will find The Enemy who is worthy of Danny.” These are Danny's last words!

Danny was the groups core, their bright light and when this finally expires, the group scatters like the leaves in the wind.
For some reason some parts made me chuckle and reminded me of Neil Gaimans [American Gods] and his [Anansi Boys], and other parts reminded me of “one for all, all for one” from the [Three Musketeers] by Dumas.
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LibraryThing member whiteck
The elevated conversational style of 'thee's" and "thou's" reveals the nobility of the humans that inhabit, so perfectly imperfect, this world. Can there be any more beautiful passage than that when The Pirate retells the story of the new cup to his dogs, and they look up past him as, surely, a
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visage of St. Anthony appears?
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LibraryThing member writestuff
Danny, the hero of John Steinbeck’s novella Tortilla Flat, is a paisano. When he inherits two small houses in Tortilla Flat, his friends soon discover that living beneath a roof is preferable to sleeping in the woods. Pilon, Pablo, Pirate and his pack of friendly dogs, Joe Portagee, and Jesus
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Maria soon move in with Danny. Together, they commit petty theft, drink far too much cheap wine, and engage in a number of sexual liaisons with the town women. They also develop strong friendships with each other – friendships based on a common philosophy that material goods are not what create happiness, and freedom comes in choosing to live unencumbered by traditional social mores. The paisanos are loyal to their comrades over all else.

Based loosely on the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable, Steinbeck’s classic novel explores the growing friendships of the paisanos and their skewed view of morality. They often steal from their neighbors, yet unselfishly assist those in need; they are quick to come to the rescue of the local women, but do not deny themselves sexual gratification. They share stories to help teach each other the lessons of life. Steinbeck clearly loves this scrappy band of brothers and with humor and sensitivity he creates memorable and likable characters. At times, Tortilla Flat feels like a collection of short stories or parables.

Steinbeck sets Tortilla Flat during the Depression era in a town just outside of Monterey, California and with his signature style captures the flavor of that time period and geographic area.

It will not surprise anyone that I thoroughly enjoyed Tortilla Flat. I have long come to recognize Steinbeck as an astute writer who crafts his characters with detail and empathy. Although this novella has a different feel and style from his better known novels such as East of Eden or The Grapes of Wrath, it is of the same high quality. In less than 200 pages, Steinbeck succeeds in drawing the reader into the world of the paisano and leaves her wanting for more.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member technodiabla
I was very disappointed in this book. As always with Steinbeck, the writing was wonderful, but I just could not summon up one ounce of empathy for this sorry lot of characters- lazy, immoral, filthy pigs all around. Now reading about unsavory characters is not necessarily a bad thing, but Steinbeck
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really admires these characters and portrays them somewhat as heroes (supposedly as Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table), which really put me off.

The story itself is a series of episodes that reminded me quite a bit of Don Quixote.
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LibraryThing member livrecache
Yet another book I studied at university.
LibraryThing member MrsLee
I did not finish this book. Read it half way through, skipped and read the end which was exactly what I expected from Steinbeck, and decided to devote my time to more enjoyable reading. Sorry if this doesn't go down well with Steinbeck fans, but I simply don't find anything about the lives of
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alcoholics who are destroying themselves and those around them, amusing. It seemed to me that he was trying to make it so. The only reason I stuck with it halfway through was because of his writing. Others may find this an excellent book, but I didn't like it.
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LibraryThing member 391
This was the first Steinbeck book I've ever read, and wow. It was PHENOMENAL. I loved it. It's funny, touching, and always left me wanting more. The short story format is so perfect, and I found myself trying not to laugh out loud on the crowded train at several points. Great - FANASTIC - book.
LibraryThing member mattus
This is Steinbeck's best book. Not his best writing, necessarily, but from the perspective of one who lived in the Salinas Valley and worked on these farms, eking out a marginal existence (until wandering into the digital age, as did we all), I know and love these characters like few others in
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Steinbeck's work. Each of Steinbeck's novels has its advocates, perfectly understandable, but none has a place in my heart quite like this book.
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LibraryThing member jarnold_az
I thoroughly enjoyed this book which describes another dimension of the town of Monterey, California, and the "paisanos" that lived their lives there in the early 20th century. Steinbeck is an absolute master of dialogue, which is realistic and intriguing, and this book is a great example of his
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art. The only reason I gave it 4 stars, and not 5 was perhaps the scope not on the same level as his other tour-de-force novels "The Grapes of Wrath" or "East of Eden".
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LibraryThing member hbergander
Tortilla Flat was the first book, which gave me the idea, that I would prefer a hot and sunny country to the rainy weather in my north-western German home.
LibraryThing member jmchshannon
I confess that I am not a John Steinbeck fan. I find his work to be utterly depressing and uninspiring. I know I am in the minority here, so I am always on the lookout for a novel of his that will help me see why others consider him one of America's best writers. Unfortunately, Tortilla Flat is not
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that novel.

Tortilla Flat is the story about a group of men who all come together in friendship and in drink. They have no money, no jobs, and no ambition. They do have each other, but that does not make for an interesting novel. Instead, one is left questioning the point that Steinbeck was trying to make. Is it a character sketch? Is it an allegory? I honestly did not care to figure it out.

Don't get me wrong. Danny and his group understand the meaning of friendship in ways that are touching and yet hilarious. They do their best to protect each other and gladly share their good fortunes. Yet, a reader wishes that their fortunes involved earning and drinking more than a gallon or two of wine. It is a scenario that quickly becomes redundant.

The one thing Tortilla Flat does have going for it is the fact that it is completely unlike most of his other works. There is no morality story or expose of conditions of life for the underprivileged. Still, other than a picture of friendship, Tortilla Flat does not offer the reader much in the way of actual plot or action. Steinbeck fans will be impressed by his deviation from his standard writing. Those who remain on the fence about Steinbeck's supposed genius will do well to leave this one alone.
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LibraryThing member ericj.dixon
Laugh-out-loud funny in many parts for me. The characters are real; they will take up physical space (one of Steinbeck's gifts to his readers). Anyone who has friends, faithfully-flawed and honestly-opportunistic or otherwise, will be able to appreciate the subtlety displayed in the interaction
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between the inhabitants of Tortilla Flat.
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LibraryThing member InDreamsAwake
"This is the story of Danny and of Danny's friends and of Danny's house."

And with that first line, I realized why Steinbeck is one of the greatest American writers. His stories are direct, no pretenses, to the point, yet he manages to capture a snapshot of life that sucks you into the story. He did
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this with Grapes and East of Eden remarkably and he did it with this story as well. So that even though you have no clue about what sort of people lived in Monterey CA in the 30s or even care, you will after reading this. If you met these characters under normal circumstances, you would most likely be disgusted, but Steinbeck makes the reader fall in love with them. Just when you think they can't possibly sink any lower to score a jug of wine, which is their primary focus of life, one of them does something that is so sweet and you realize the depth of the human condition, that inner struggle between good and evil.

But that's almost going too deep, because if nothing else, this story is funny. Laugh-out-loud, read-passages-to-whoever-happens-to-be-in-the-room-with-you-and-is-patient-enough-to-listen funny. And again, Steinbeck has this ability in his humor to make the reader pause and take it in. It's not an in-your-face kind of humor, but more subtle and non-assuming. Sometimes you just want to read a good, old-fashioned story and Steinbeck is the master storyteller.
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0140187405 / 9780140187403
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