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Novels 1942–1952: The Moon Is Down / Cannery Row / The Pearl / East of Eden

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The third volume in The Library of America’s authoritative edition of John Steinbeck’s writings shows him continuing to explore new subject matter and new approaches to storytelling. These four novels display the versatility and emotional directness that have made Steinbeck one of America’s most enduringly popular writers. The Moon Is Down (1942), set in an unnamed Scandina The third volume in The Library of America’s authoritative edition of John Steinbeck’s writings shows him continuing to explore new subject matter and new approaches to storytelling. These four novels display the versatility and emotional directness that have made Steinbeck one of America’s most enduringly popular writers. The Moon Is Down (1942), set in an unnamed Scandinavian country under German occupation, dramatizes the transformation of ordinary life under totalitarian rule and the underground struggle against the Nazi invaders. Told largely in dialogue, the book was conceived simultaneously as a novel and a play, and was successfully produced on Broadway. Although some American critics found its treatment of the German characters too sympathetic, The Moon Is Down was widely read in occupied areas of Europe, where it was regarded as an inspiring contribution to the resistance. In Cannery Row (1945) Steinbeck paid tribute to his closest friend, the marine biologist Ed Ricketts, in the central character of Doc, proprietor of the Western Biological Laboratory and spiritual and financial mainstay of a cast of philosophical drifters and hangers-on. The comic and bawdy evocation of Monterey’s sardine-canning district—"a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream"—has made this one of the most popular of all of Steinbeck’s novels. Steinbeck’s long involvement with Mexican culture is distilled in The Pearl (1947). Expanding on an anecdote he heard in Baja California about a local boy who had found a pearl of unusual size, Steinbeck turned it into a parable of the corrupting influence of sudden wealth. The Pearl appears here with the original illustrations by José Clemente Orozco. Ambitious in scale and original in structure, East of Eden (1952) recounts the violent and emotionally turbulent history of a Salinas Valley family through several generations. Drawing on Biblical parallels, encompassing a period stretching from the Civil War to World War I, and incorporating, as counterpoint to the central story, some of the actual history of Steinbeck’s mother’s family, East of Eden is an epic that explores the writer’s deepest and most anguished concerns within a landscape that for him had mythic resonance. (East of Eden was a recent selection of Oprah’s Book Club.)


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The third volume in The Library of America’s authoritative edition of John Steinbeck’s writings shows him continuing to explore new subject matter and new approaches to storytelling. These four novels display the versatility and emotional directness that have made Steinbeck one of America’s most enduringly popular writers. The Moon Is Down (1942), set in an unnamed Scandina The third volume in The Library of America’s authoritative edition of John Steinbeck’s writings shows him continuing to explore new subject matter and new approaches to storytelling. These four novels display the versatility and emotional directness that have made Steinbeck one of America’s most enduringly popular writers. The Moon Is Down (1942), set in an unnamed Scandinavian country under German occupation, dramatizes the transformation of ordinary life under totalitarian rule and the underground struggle against the Nazi invaders. Told largely in dialogue, the book was conceived simultaneously as a novel and a play, and was successfully produced on Broadway. Although some American critics found its treatment of the German characters too sympathetic, The Moon Is Down was widely read in occupied areas of Europe, where it was regarded as an inspiring contribution to the resistance. In Cannery Row (1945) Steinbeck paid tribute to his closest friend, the marine biologist Ed Ricketts, in the central character of Doc, proprietor of the Western Biological Laboratory and spiritual and financial mainstay of a cast of philosophical drifters and hangers-on. The comic and bawdy evocation of Monterey’s sardine-canning district—"a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream"—has made this one of the most popular of all of Steinbeck’s novels. Steinbeck’s long involvement with Mexican culture is distilled in The Pearl (1947). Expanding on an anecdote he heard in Baja California about a local boy who had found a pearl of unusual size, Steinbeck turned it into a parable of the corrupting influence of sudden wealth. The Pearl appears here with the original illustrations by José Clemente Orozco. Ambitious in scale and original in structure, East of Eden (1952) recounts the violent and emotionally turbulent history of a Salinas Valley family through several generations. Drawing on Biblical parallels, encompassing a period stretching from the Civil War to World War I, and incorporating, as counterpoint to the central story, some of the actual history of Steinbeck’s mother’s family, East of Eden is an epic that explores the writer’s deepest and most anguished concerns within a landscape that for him had mythic resonance. (East of Eden was a recent selection of Oprah’s Book Club.)

30 review for Novels 1942–1952: The Moon Is Down / Cannery Row / The Pearl / East of Eden

  1. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    John Steinbeck In The Library Of America I hadn't read John Steinbeck since high school, but I returned to him about a year ago after our book group read his late novel, "The Winter of our Discontent". I was pleased to read this collection of Steinbeck's novels, written from 1942 -- 1952,in the Library of America series. They are of varied lengths, varying settings, and varied themes. Yet they show a writer with a broad continuity of themes including people, the land, American values, human sexua John Steinbeck In The Library Of America I hadn't read John Steinbeck since high school, but I returned to him about a year ago after our book group read his late novel, "The Winter of our Discontent". I was pleased to read this collection of Steinbeck's novels, written from 1942 -- 1952,in the Library of America series. They are of varied lengths, varying settings, and varied themes. Yet they show a writer with a broad continuity of themes including people, the land, American values, human sexuality, the importance of culture and education, and much else. It may be useful to explore some of the threads among the novels collected in this volume. Steinbeck wrote his short novel "The Moon is Down" in 1941 following a request by the Foreign Information Service to assist American propaganda efforts during WW II. The story is set in an unnamed Scandinavian country which, when the book opens, has been invaded by Germany. Although the book is short, the characterizations are diverse and effective as Steinbeck gives the reader portraits of the German office corps, and of the people of the town, including the mayor, a collaborator with the enemy, and a young woman, Molly, whose husband has been shot by the invaders. I particularly enjoyed the use Steinbeck made of the products of human creativity and thought in his story which emphasizes the priceless nature of human freedom. Thus, the climactic scene of the story includes a discussion of Plato's Apology among the mayor, his friend, and the German commander. Another critical scene in the book turns on the love poetry of the German poet Heinrich Heine. In this novel, Steinbeck met the aims of the Foreign Information Service, but more importantly he produced a defense of human liberty that far transcended these aims. In the next book in this collection, "Cannery Row",(1944) Steinbeck deliberately avoided the war. He claimed that he wrote the book as "a kind of nostalgic thing ... for a group of soldiers who had said to me: 'Write something funny that isn't about the war. Write something for us to read -- we're sick of war." The book is set in Steinbeck's beloved Monterey, California during the depression. The main character in the book, Doc, is modeled on Steinbeck's friend Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist. Doc befriends a group of Cannery Row denizens of the local flophouse -- headed by a character named Mack -- and the relationship between Doc and the "Palace Flophouse" residents forms the basis for most of the scenes in this book. Other characters include Dora, the madam of the Bear Flag Restaurant who is sympathetically portrayed. As we will see, Steinbeck portrayed madams in other books with a much harsher view. I was surprised to find in this book a discussion of an ancient Sanskrit love poem, "Black Marigolds" together with discussions by Doc of Monteverdi, Bach, Beethoven and Debussy. The importance Steinbeck attached to high products of human thought and creativity is sometimes overlooked. The third novel in this collection is the brief work, "The Pearl" (1947) which, unfortunately, has become the bane of many young readers who have the work forced upon them. Both the book and the readers deserve a better fate. The book takes place in Mexico and is a story that shows the effect upon a poor family of discovering a pearl of great wealth. It is simply and eloquently told. Steinbeck describes his book as "a parable" in which "perhaps everyone takes his own meaning from it and reads his own life into it." The book makes great use of song imagery as we are told at the outset that the people of the Mexican village "had been great makers of songs so that everything they saw or thought or did or heard became a song." The main character, Kino, hears in his heart various songs throughout the book, the most important of which is the "Song of the Family" or the "Whole" which celebrates his life with his wife and new baby. This is a short, beautiful story which glows with the many colors and ambiguities as did the pearl which Kino discovers. The final novel in this collection, and the longest by far is "East of Eden" which Steinbeck wrote in a burst of energy in 1951. This was Steinbeck's favorite among all his works and he literally put himself into it in the person of the narrator. Steinbeck said that he wrote "East of Eden" to tell "the story of my country and the story of me" to his two young sons in order to demonstrate "the greatest story of all -- the story of good and evil, of strength and weakness, of love and hate, of beauty and ugliness, how these doubles are inseparable." For all its melodrama, length, sometimes black-and-white characterizations, and preachiness, the novel achieves its goals. I was transfixed by the book. Most of the story takes place in the Salinas Valley of Northern California and involves the saga of two families, the Hamiltons and the Trasks. There are two Trask brothers, Adam and Charles, and twin sons of Adam, (presumably), and his wife Cathy -- Aron and Caleb. Both Adam and Charles and Aron and Caleb replicate in their own ways the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Steinbeck gives this story a full biblical style exegesis as the reader sees the story of the conflict between good and evil play out in double over the course of the book. This book features another madam, Kate -- or Cathy Trask whom Steinbeck describes as a "monster". This is a far different woman than the Dora of "Cannery Row". This book portrays strikingly the good and evil of which people are capable and their capacity to make choices -- to understand the good and reject the evil. Steinbeck writes in a humanistic rather than in a theological way. In summary, this volume includes four different yet related works by an outstanding American author. This book will reward reading by those who wish to explore some of the great literature that has been written in the United States. The Library of America deserves gratitude for making our country's literary and cultural achievements available to many readers. Robin Friedman

  2. 5 out of 5

    shakespeareandspice

    Read The Pearl & East of Eden. Both 3 stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gary

    reading Cannery Row.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Zach Barnhart

    I came to this mainly for "East of Eden," but also read "The Moon is Down" and "Cannery Row." I'm glad I read multiple stories, because it shows how skilled Steinbeck is in various genres and different kinds of stories. He's no one-trick pony. "East of Eden" is magnificent. A long, sometimes arduous story, but a good story nonetheless. Steinbeck really has a knack for developing characters in a way that makes you love them or hate them. He is so good at describing both nature and psychology. Gla I came to this mainly for "East of Eden," but also read "The Moon is Down" and "Cannery Row." I'm glad I read multiple stories, because it shows how skilled Steinbeck is in various genres and different kinds of stories. He's no one-trick pony. "East of Eden" is magnificent. A long, sometimes arduous story, but a good story nonetheless. Steinbeck really has a knack for developing characters in a way that makes you love them or hate them. He is so good at describing both nature and psychology. Glad I read these.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

    I am giving Cannery Row 3 starts. Here are some thoughts that I posted on my blog: https://gregshistoryblog.blogspot.com... I am giving Cannery Row 3 starts. Here are some thoughts that I posted on my blog: https://gregshistoryblog.blogspot.com...

  6. 5 out of 5

    GRANT

    "East of Eden" is excellent. Need to read the others. "Cannery Row" probably next. "East of Eden" is excellent. Need to read the others. "Cannery Row" probably next.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Bita

    Only needed to read East of Eden. I will also read Cannery row. My favorite American Lit author. Just loved this story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dr.J.G.

    Moon Is Down:- ............................................................. Cannary Row:- About the down and out and small fry and the manual labour workers and so forth, and their lives - ............................................................................................ The Pearl:- One of the shortest and yet one of the best of this writer, which is saying a lot. How a poor person who is given a hand by fortune is not allowed to have it by social hounds, until he comes to a decision ab Moon Is Down:- ............................................................. Cannary Row:- About the down and out and small fry and the manual labour workers and so forth, and their lives - ............................................................................................ The Pearl:- One of the shortest and yet one of the best of this writer, which is saying a lot. How a poor person who is given a hand by fortune is not allowed to have it by social hounds, until he comes to a decision about what is best for his family. Gets to heart. .................................................................. East of Eden:- John Steinbeck is not only one of the most famous writers, and generally also a very respected one, but more than anything he transcends often from good writer to a great one. This is one of the works that is evidence of his quality that is at once magical and great both. East Of Eden rises above the mundane and the unusual, the common and the evil, the different characters that it describes, by the good and the superlative, the aspiring human spirit and the calm, comprehending one; the courage of one and the silent tragedy of another. It is not just the mirroring of Adam and Charles with slightly skewed images in Aaron and Caleb, and the questionable source of the money fo Adam's father mirrored in the beyond question source of Cathy's - it is the whole lot of people. Especially Samuel and his whole clan, on one hand, with Adam's chinese housekeeper and cook on the other with his elders who went through years of learning to ponder on a question that had nothing to do with their ancestral culture. And found the answer, too! It is Olive, with her stoic encouragement of a pilot she thought was in trouble; her sister who spread delight and peace and joy like a delicate but definite perfume in hearts and lives and brought smiles of expectation to those that expected to meet her, and herself died selently of a heartbreak. Another one who married an inventor, who went on trying, at the expense of making money - in fact spending all he had for his experiments. Samuel's horse who had a grand name because he had nothing else. His wife who cared for her large family with the very little that their land could provide, and did not worry, only worked and provided and organised. Samuel who knew that Adam's Chinese housekeeper was more literate and erudite than his pretense to the contrary for sake of conforming to the local social prejudice, in order to blend into the background. So many charcters unforgettable - and so many lessons implicit and otherwise. Of course, one may complain Steinbeck went with the more socially acceptable norm, in depicting evil in the accepted form in prevalent cultural prejudicial terms of Christian and Islamic heritage, by personifying it as a female - while evil rages far more often and far more visibly out there in garb of male gender. Think nazis, think Stalin, think kkk, think paedophiles and other abusers. But one cannot expect everything from everyone, and if Steinbeck did not rise above all of his upbringing limitations, he was only human. ................................................................................

  9. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    The Moon is Down Review (9/02/12) Gave 4 stars Interesting novella that follows the story about a "silent" rebellious coastal townspeople who have recently been conquered by an invading army. While the townspeople do not outwardly or actively rebel or resist, they look on to the invading army with cruel, cold, and un-trusting eyes which kills some of the invading army's soldiers. The dialogue was really creative and the characters were well-crafted. Cannery Row Review (8/29/12) Gave 3 stars This nov The Moon is Down Review (9/02/12) Gave 4 stars Interesting novella that follows the story about a "silent" rebellious coastal townspeople who have recently been conquered by an invading army. While the townspeople do not outwardly or actively rebel or resist, they look on to the invading army with cruel, cold, and un-trusting eyes which kills some of the invading army's soldiers. The dialogue was really creative and the characters were well-crafted. Cannery Row Review (8/29/12) Gave 3 stars This novel is not plot-driven, but the story focuses more on delineating the town and characters of Cannery Row. Cannery Row is a good book for a quick read. As he always does, Steinbeck implies important short lessons about life in his story about the struggling between the rich and the poor. The Pearl Review (8/30/12) Gave 4 stars The novella is widely entertaining with great plot and characters, still, I was just really hoping that the infant, Coyotito, could have gained something. I was anticipating a happy ending. I was not hoping for Kino and Juana to become rich after they found the pearl (that would go against Steinbeck's message), but I was disappointed when Coyotito was killed off like that! Once Kino and Juana found the pearl, I was rooting for them the whole time and sharing that same enthusiasm with Kino-hoping that Coyotito would get an education. My wishes for a different ending is probably silly though. Killing off Coyotito, unfortunately, is probably the only way for Kino to understand how corruptible the pearl became. Unlike Juana, Kino did not recognize the pearl's evil until very late (actually, too late) in the novel. Either way, the techniques used to craft the novella were really clever. I liked Steinbeck's use of different characters and the balance between Kino's idealistic dreams and Juana's practicality. The story was focused primarily on the plot and characters, so it was not a dull read (not too much description on setting involved this time). The read is not too difficult or long, so I recommend to everyone! I read this in one sitting. East of Eden Review (8/31/10) Gave 5 stars I was astonished at how profound this book was. I loved how the symbolism of the biblical story between Cain and Abel was included. And despite this being the first time reading Steinbeck's work, I can totally see why he said that it was his best work. He transitioned the story so perfectly well (despite having so many characters). His meandering throughout the book necessarily added the effect of the story. The symbolism was creatively crafted into Cain and Abel. And, of course, East of Eden left an important message to its readers through a heartfelt, memorable story. *Timshel* Although I admit being shocked when I first saw how inevitably long East of Eden was (I had to read it as a summer homework assignment), it was very entertaining as a matter of fact. It wasn't boring at all. I really didn't think of East of Eden as one huge, never-ending book anyways. East of Eden was really like a big collection of four books put together. Like a series of books. I recommend to everyone-REALLY ONE OF THE GREATEST AMERICAN MASTER PIECES EVER WRITTEN!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Martin Hernandez

    Tercero de los cuatro tomos de la hermosa colección publicada por la Library of America, que incluye obras que John STEINBECK publicó entre 1942 y 1952. Aquí tienen mi reseña a cada obra, por separado: The Moon is Down Cannery Row The Pearl East of Eden Tercero de los cuatro tomos de la hermosa colección publicada por la Library of America, que incluye obras que John STEINBECK publicó entre 1942 y 1952. Aquí tienen mi reseña a cada obra, por separado: The Moon is Down Cannery Row The Pearl East of Eden

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Although I only read East of Eden from this edition, reading this masterpiece has given me insight into what I believe is a perfect novel. East of Eden is a sweeping epic not just of the Trask family but of the American experience in the West at the turn of the 20th century. It is so beautifully written and the characters are developed so carefully...its an inspiring piece of work reinterpreting the story of original sin and of Cain and Abel.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    Doc, Mack & the boys, Lee Chong, Dora. Great parties--outrageous frog hunt and consequences LOL[return]Brilliant; the writing first struck me as the essence of masculinity--not in the flamboyant Hollywood way, but in the rock solid knowledge that this is a man in whose hands you can relax. It was an odd reaction given the subject matter, but it was my first Steinbeck at the time and the feeling was palpable.[return][return]These people are so real, I'd know them on the street. Doc, Mack & the boys, Lee Chong, Dora. Great parties--outrageous frog hunt and consequences LOL[return]Brilliant; the writing first struck me as the essence of masculinity--not in the flamboyant Hollywood way, but in the rock solid knowledge that this is a man in whose hands you can relax. It was an odd reaction given the subject matter, but it was my first Steinbeck at the time and the feeling was palpable.[return][return]These people are so real, I'd know them on the street.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    The Moon Is Down and The Pearl are short works but both are quite engaging and moving. On the opposite end of the spectrum, East of Eden is a sprawling, ambitious epic exploring family and the relationship between good and evil. Perhaps the most enjoyable story in the collection is Cannery Row, a humorous and charming look at the residents of a rundown canning town.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Timshel

  15. 4 out of 5

    Drew

    The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck (1964)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bill Arnold

    A multi-generational examination of families in the Salinas Valley of California. Steinbeck incorporates his own family into the mix. Great characters!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aaron France

    Oddly, Cannery Row is my favorite Jack London story. It's extremely sentimental, and apparently a tribute to a friend of his from Monterey. I still need to finish East of Eden. Oddly, Cannery Row is my favorite Jack London story. It's extremely sentimental, and apparently a tribute to a friend of his from Monterey. I still need to finish East of Eden.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Arukiyomi

    Vividly brought to life, Steinbeck's classic is a tale of community down in the dregs of the fuel tank of America. A captivating study of real life people. Vividly brought to life, Steinbeck's classic is a tale of community down in the dregs of the fuel tank of America. A captivating study of real life people.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    Read Cannery Row for Book Group.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Wisteria Leigh

    classic literature,fiction,epic literature,family,historical fiction,cain and abel,California,brothers,favorite

  21. 5 out of 5

    Justin Lee Hanks

  22. 5 out of 5

    Arletta Saafir

  23. 5 out of 5

    Desiree Stinemetze

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jane Braaten

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jane Wiseman

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cuchulain

  27. 5 out of 5

    Inanna

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paige

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne Lambrianou

  30. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Carson

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