Tortilla Flat

A book by John Steinbeck, copyright 1936.

Of Danny, Pilon, Pablo, Jesus Maria Corcoran, and the Pirate and his dogs in the area known as Tortilla Flat in Monterey.

The Story
When Danny returns from the first world war he discovers that he has been left two houses in a will. He agrees to rent one of them to Pilon and live in the other. Pilon knows he cannot pay the rent so he lets Pablo stay with him on the condition that Pablo pays (all of) the rent. Pablo knows he cannot pay the rent so he lets Jesus Maria stay with him and Pilon on the condition that Jesus Maria pays (all of) the rent.

I think you can see a pattern emerging.

At this point the house of Pilon, Pablo and Jesus Maria is burnt down (accidentally, or possibly by divine will) so they all move into Danny’s own and last house. Pilon then seeks to defraud the Pirate, but he ends up living with them too.

Finally, Danny dies (or possibly is killed - the circumstances are mysterious). After the funeral, the house burns down, this time almost certainly by divine will, and the friends separate and go on with their lives.

The character's speech is a little odd - it is a mix of archaic English (thee, thou, goest, etc.) and modern English.

Steinbeck writes about Monterey like a native. He wasn’t one, but he did live there for years. The unnamed author of the introduction to my edition notes that it is

“probably Steinbeck’s most completly realized book - complete whole, and self sufficient”
Though this may be true, it also fits in with the much more famous Cannery Row.

More than any of Steinbeck's other books Tortilla Flat is funny. Most of the humour is incidental. For example the vast exaggeration which Pilon engages in, and the rickety structures of rationalization he builds to justify doing bad things are hilarious.

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