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Kris' Books.

Female. Slavic mind. Avid reader.

 I read across a broad range of book genres, with an emphasis on Aus/NZ lit, Russian and Ukrainian literature, Latin-American literature and European history.


Tortilla Flat - John Steinbeck As with the majority of books of books published in the former part of the twentieth century, direct and inferred racism are regular components of the story. No niceties are used to cover up any of the racist attitudes people in interspersed communities like Steinbeck's paisano community of Tortilla flat openly expressed. In a way this makes the story more authentic, as attitudes truly felt back in the day are conveyed. I think racism was not really considered as a vice in the U.S then, so it would only be natural for an author to involve disrespect towards other races in his work. Although Steinbeck tries to portray paisanos convincingly, I don't think he could have done it too well, with his only knowledge of the paisanos sourced from anecdotes by non-paisanos who had attempted to understand the mentality and culture of the people from a very non-paisano perspective after a relatively short experience in paisano settlements. In my opinion, it would take a paisano who had been raised in a paisano settlement to write properly about the paisnos. In other news, my judgement of this novel was not based on Steinbeck's interpretation of paisano culture.

What did take my fancy was the square and substantial structure of the story as a total. The sharp, sardonic wit didn't fail to please either. Under the straightforward third person narration by Steinbeck himself, in a wry tone the reader is transported to the happy-go-lucky world of Tortilla Flat, where all every one really cares about is whether they will have wine and a mate to help unmake as many gallons of vino as they might have on hand. The means the residents of Tortilla Flat use to obtain the pecuniary funds for their drinking habits is as derisory as the way they generally lead their lifestyles. As I read this book, I could not help but be reminded of a text I had read earlier, "The Twelve Chairs" by Ilf and Petrov, where the protagonist, Ostap Bender, mentioned that he sought to "trick and mislead the common people in four hundred honest ways", and the fun of that book was resultant of Bender's ludicrous failings. In this book, I could relate many of the characters' actions to Bender's quote. In short, I wasn't impressed enough to declare "Tortilla Flat" a favourite, but the great carousing ecstasy I felt when I was done with this novel pretty much confirmed that it had firmly planted itself into a notch of my heart. If you are looking for a kind of literary version of a circus, I would recommend this novel.