- Let's start with Cannery Row.
- What is Cannery Row, anyway? Steinbeck enlightens us. Kind of. It's "a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light... " (0.1). Okay, thanks.
- A little clarification: it's called Cannery Row because, you guessed it, there's a cannery there.
- When the boats full of sardines dock there, all the "Wops, Chinamen and Polaks" run down to stuff the poor things into cans. Note: Steinbeck didn't get the political correctness memo.
- After the smelly workers leave, "Cannery Row becomes itself again" and all the usual inhabitants come out.
- Steinbeck steps out of the action for a moment to wonder how he's going to write this book at all.
- Taking a page from marine biologists, he decides he'll "open the page and [ . . . ] let the stories crawl in by themselves" (0.3).
Get it? He's like a scientist observing a bunch of weird life-forms.