Cannery Row (1945) & Sweet Thursday (1954)

First came Cannery Row in 1945. Then came Sweet Thursday 9 years later.

I loved both of these books. If I had to choose one to be my favorite of the two, it would have to be Sweet Thursday though. I know that sequels are not supposed to be better than their predecessor but I think that these two books are just so good that choosing which one is better lies purely in personal opinion and fuzzy warm feelings.

I feel like I could tell Steinbeck was older when he wrote Sweet Thursday. Both books are wise and have a lot to say about society and human relationships but Sweet Thursday speaks to me more. Maybe just because it is more about love and it has a hilarious masquerade ball scene in it where everyone from town dresses as characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (but the grocery store owner dresses as Dracula because in his mind all movies are the same).

Also, Cannery Row is a great deal about men and manly things- similar to the arrangement in Tortilla Flat when a group of men live together, work no jobs, but live happily and healthily observing the world at a leisurely pace, but in Sweet Thursday, we take a microscope on the town brothel and discover a strong female character finally in Suzy, a women not meant to be a hooker or hustler.

Life inside the brothels are illustrated again and again in Steinbeck books. Steinbeck seems to prefer to show the human side of prostitutes and see how strong and supportive they are. They are strong women who are part of the community and influence the town (for the better). They also know how to work the system and shut down around the same time every year when people celebrate V-Day, knowing that this outburst of patriotism for some reason resents their kind. Fauna, the second owner of the Bear Flag, is a smart, sympathetic business-owner who everyone seems to respect. Except for the Patron who has taken over Lee Chong's grocery store after the war. The mexican seems to not be as progressive as the other men in town who as a whole seem to respect Fauna and her girls.

It's also interesting to note that this matriarchy is served by a man who is their cook, housekeeper, laundry-man, and also a writer.


I See You Everywhere (2008)

OK, so this one came from NPR's top books from 2008. I recognized the name Julia Glass from maybe a book of short stories that I read a few years ago for a writing class. I thought the book was very powerful because of it's subject matter- sisters, cancer, suicide, relationships, family, divorce, and on and on.

Based on the synopsis that was given on the back of the book, I was really hoping I'd like the book and give it to my sister to read. But the book isn't about something so simple as sisters who are polar opposites. The book also calls one sister the "responsible one" and one the "impetuous one." I did not find this the case at all! They took turns being responsible and impetuous, but all of this really depends on what the definition of responsible is because both girls are responsible in different ways.

The sisters took turns being the narrator of each chapter. I thought that the two girls were actually pretty shallow characters and even rather obvious and stereotypical opposites. For me, the only reason this book saved itself from the trash pile for me is because of the chapter about suicide and how the remaining sister and her family handled it.