How we cite our quotes:
Western Biological deals in strange and beautiful wares. [ . . . ] You can order anything living from Western Biological and sooner or later you will get it.
"Strange and beautiful" isn't exactly how we'd describe Mack and the boys, but we'll take it. They're the sea life that Steinbeck deals with, just as anemones and starfish are the sea life that Doc collects.
And for students there are sharks with the blood drained out and yellow and blue color substituted in veins and arteries, so that you may follow the systems with a scalpel. And there are cats with colored veins and arteries, and frogs the same (5.1)
So if Doc's lab is the writing desk, then the "books" are the preserved animals that Doc sends out to his clients. That would be us. We want to be able to dissect Cannery Row and understand all about how it works. But—here's the thing. Isn't it kind of, well, wrong to dissect real, living people the same way you'd peer at a shark?
Then the French doctor was made to collect the parts. He was forced to wash them reverently and pick out as much sand as possible. [ . . . ] For Monterey was not a town to let dishonor come to a literary man (12.22)
You kind of have to ask if this long story about what happened to the dead writer's stomach and liver does much to restore honor to him. And then you have to ask if Steinbeck is secretly afraid that something similar is going to happen to his liver.