This novel takes place in the eponymous Cannery Row, a place made up of ’junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses’. Although there is a narrative trajectory — the desire of Mack and the other boys living at the Palace Flophouse to throw a party for their friend and benefactor, Doc — the plot of this novel is really that plot of land Steinbeck describes so well.
Just as the Iron Curtain fell on Eastern Europe, Steinbeck and Capa began a remarkable journey through the Soviet Union. Their travels took them to Moscow and Stalingrad. What they saw and recorded was what Steinbeck called the "great other side", the ordinary lives of Russian men and women. Combining Steinbeck's compassion, humour and eye for detail with Capa's photographic studies, this text is a unique potrait of Russia and its people as they emerged from the ravages of war. Here too is an intimate glimpse of two great artists at work.
Steinbeck’s last great novel focuses on the theme of success and what motivates men towards it. Reflecting back on his New England family’s past fortune, and his father’s loss of the family wealth, the hero, Ethan Allen Hawley, characterizes success in every era and in all its forms as robbery, murder, even a kind of combat, operating under “the laws of controlled savagery”.