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Tortilla Flat [Paperback]

John Steinbeck
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 9 1997 Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century
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. This edition features an introduction by Thomas Fensch.

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John Steinbeck knew and understood America and Americans better than any other writer of the twentieth century. (The Dallas Morning News) A man whose work was equal to the vast social themes that drove him. (Don DeLillo)"

About the Author

Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck is remembered as one of the greatest and best-loved American writers of the twentieth century. His complete works will be available in Penguin Modern Classics. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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First Sentence
When Danny came home from the army he learned that he was an heir and an owner of property. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Wine, Women, Paisanos! What a great trio June 4 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Pulitzer Prize winner, John Steinbeck is a classic master storyteller. Born in 1902 and died in 1968 he exemplified diversity in storytelling as "Tortilla Flat" demonstrates freshness to the ear.
The story's main character Danny becomes an heir to two homes, but his paisanos in the small town of Tortilla Flat convince him to "rent" one home to them. Paisanos are of Mexican, Indian, Spanish and assorted Caucasian blood. None of his friends can pay rent; they live off the benefit of others. Steinbeck ingeniously plays out a humorous story of camaraderie, loyalty, wine, women and more wine.
The paisanos share a philosophy that boasts good honest intention leading to a justifiable need for wine instead. The plot continuously unfolds with humor, wit, bonding, hospitality, visions, treasure, ethics, scheming, greed and evil. The friendship of all men evolves and slowly disintegrates as they separate.
Their philosophy is a departure from the socially conventional: Pilon, feeling guilty about owing Danny rent money, takes a job, earns two dollars in a day, and intends to pay Danny some rent, but he is swayed by the power of wine. He says "If I give him hard money, it doesn't express how I feel toward my friend." He buys and indulges a present of wine for two dollars and tells Danny it cost five dollars.
To get eggs, Pilon knows of neighbor, Mrs. Morales' chickens. He feels if he tears a hole in his fence, the chickens would like to nest in his tall grass. If they didn't pick her apples, they would spoil anyway.
When the house Danny rents to his friends burns, the men move in with him, and soon the story compounds as they scheme and entice more friends in.
Drinking cheap wine is a priority among the group as money is a chief problem.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Steinbeck May 6 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"Tortilla Flat" tells the story of a group of friends who spend their time drinking wine and doing little else - except for thieving, cavorting with various women, and occasionally fighting with each other. Yet through all of these adventures, and some mishaps, they remain the truest of friends. They have formed a bond that even their conflicting desires and greedy natures cannot break.
After returning from WWI, Danny (the main character and leader of the gang) finds himself an heir to two houses from his grandfather. His friends quickly take up residence in first one house and then in Danny's house. They look out for each other, these six grown men, who vacilate from wisdom to foolishness, and bcome better men for having such friends.
As usual, Steinbeck's prose is at times sparse, at other times poetic. His characters are vividly drawn, and their sometimes larger-than-life antics are alive. "Tortilla Flat" may be hard to get into at the beginning of the novel, but once you've entered their world, you won't want to leave it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars The characters are anything but flat Feb. 23 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Tortilla Flat was a very humorous book, and I started out thinking I had found a new favorite. However, after about the half-way point in the book, I started to feel as if the story was going nowhere. It lacked a certain building tension that I usually feel when reading a truly great novel -- one that puts its claws into me and won't let go until I reach the dramatic climax of the story. So, it is a tough story to rate because the characters and their episodes are truly humorous, but the plotline gets to be too much of a diary and not enough of a building crescendo.
So, to tell you a little bit about the book, the story revolves around a group of people called paisanos living in/near Monterey, CA. A group of these paisanos lives their lives eschewing anything that smacks of responsibility, living in the woods and spending any money they come across on wine. This might seem tragic, but they seem to love their lives and have no compulsion to change.
The protagonist is Danny, who inherits two houses from a relative and ends up sharing the houses with his paisano friends. Steinbeck develops incredible characters with subtle humor in everything I have read of his, and these are no exception. They are drunkards, thieves, and fighters, yet they also adhere to a certain moral code with ferocity. The most humorous recurring episode is the rationalization of any wrong behavior. You can see their resolve eroding as they come up with some bizarre explanation of how their action actually benefits someone else. A great example is when Pilone steals Big Joe's pants in order to teach him a moral lesson...and if he gets some wine out of the deal, what harm is done?
Anyway, I want to rate this book higher because it is extremely humorous throughout, but I am only giving it a three because of the lack of build-up and because I thought the ending was lacking.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ignorance grows as the warning grows Jan. 29 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This book is not quite as beautifully written as "Of Mice and Men", but it has a very powerful and true message albeit it might be a little exaggerated in this particular story. It's a tale about the power of the dreams that drives us, taking us places where we didn't dream of going, and neither wanted to go. It's a story about taking one apparently harmless step that forces you to take another step, and yet another until you end up where you didn't expect, one little step that only the wise would avoid taking. It's also a story about day and night, what happens on the surface and what happens beneath.
The message becomes apparent early in the book, but it grows stronger and stronger as the main characters grow more and more ignorant towards it. While reaching the last pages my adrenalin was pumping, knowing that something was going to happen, but not knowing exactly what and I was somewhat surprised by the ending.
This is the second book I've read by Steinbeck and definitely not the last.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Tortilla Flat: Steninbeck's Funniest Book
Tortilla Flat is about several men who decide to live in a house all together and are a little to fond of wine. Several hysterical adventures follow. Read more
Published on July 22 2011 by Mark A. Brown
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book from a great writer
If you enjoyed books such as Faulkner's AS I LAY DYING or McCrae's CHILDREN'S CORNER, then you'll love TORTILLA FLAT. Read more
Published on Feb. 1 2005 by Raymond Vanness
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing flat about this one
Steinbeck simply cannot write a bad book. I thought his GRAPES OF WRATH was one of the most powerful and moving tributes to mankind ever. Read more
Published on Aug. 5 2004
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining... at first
I read about half of this book and just could not keep enough interest to finish it. While the writing is wonderful, there is just not much development of the story. Read more
Published on July 8 2004 by Brandon Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars I love Steinbeck
I loved The Cannery Row and had the common feeling of joy and satisfaction after getting through a masterpiece as well as of regret that the book cannot be read again with the same... Read more
Published on May 6 2004 by A Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A Steinbeck Essential
This is a fable set in John Steinbeck's beloved Northern California. What it's all about are friendships and the dynamics of interpersonal dealings between immortal characters. Read more
Published on March 12 2004 by kkrome25
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
I am constantly amazed by Steinbeck's characters. His dialogue is so fresh and real, and the people who populate his seaside town are so vivid and different, that I can't even... Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2004 by "janet_buchman"
5.0 out of 5 stars Tortilla Flat -- An unexpected delight.
"Tortilla Flat" was an unexpected delight. I started reading without any knowledge of plot or character. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2004 by Steven B. Elmer
4.0 out of 5 stars Unpolished, Yet Compelling ! ! !
This book was written in 1934 which was in the middle of the depression years after the 1929 Black Tuesday and the economic crash. Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2004 by Bette L. Hall CMA, NHC
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