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Tortilla Flat Paperback – Jun 1 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Revised edition (June 1 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140187405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140187403
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #607,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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

John Steinbeck, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).

After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942).Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright(1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.

The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961),Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata!(1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures. 

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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