Tortilla Flat

Tortilla Flat - John Steinbeck, Thomas Fensch "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 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.