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. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped in pavement and weedy lots and jump heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonics, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men,” and he would have meant the same thing.
— Opening paragraph of Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck, 1945. I was writing something this morning and I had a sudden hunger to hear these words in my ears. The forward momentum of them. This book means a lot to me.