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.
Fortunately John Steinbeck lived long enough (he died in 1968) to witness the disappearance of the stink and grating noise and to see the quality of light, poem and dream remain. However as Steinbeck himself pointed out in his later best seller, Travels with Charley, if Doc and Mack and the boys returned to Monterey today, they couldn’t afford to live there.
Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row – the opening lines of which are quoted above – was first published in 1945. Coincidentally this was the year of the record sardine catch of 235,000 tons. Only seven years later in 1952 the sardine catch had dwindled to nothing – primarily because of over fishing – and the stink and grating noise of the canneries began to fade.