Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses.
Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gambler and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody.
Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen” and he would have meant the same thing.
These are the opening lines in Steinbeck’s exuberant 1945 novel, a work described as both sentimental and profound.