"Tortilla Flat" tells the story of Danny and his friends, a bunch of Monterey "paisanos", following their mischiefs over a period of a few months. The paisanos are basically jobless bums of mixed Spanish-Indian descent, who spend their days either stealing food or working in odd one-time jobs, and their nights drinking wine, singing and fighting.
They live in old wooden houses set in weedy yards, and the pine trees from the forest are about the houses. The paisanos are clean of commercialism, free of the complicated systems of American business, and, having nothing that can be stolen, exploited or mortgaged, that system has not attacked them very vigorously. What is a paisano? He is a mixture of Spanish, Indian, Mexican and assorted Caucasian bloods. His ancestors have lived in California for a hundred or two years. He speaks English with a paisano accent and Spanish with a paisano accent. When questioned concerning his race, he indignantly claims pure Spanish blood and rolls up his sleeve to show that the soft inside of his arm is nearly white. His color, like that of a well-browned meerschaum pipe, he ascribes to sunburn. He is a paisano, and he lives in that uphill district above the town of Monterey called Tortilla Flat, although it isn't a flat at all.
Steinbeck gets into the soul of a paisano extremely well, and conveys it masterfully to the reader. The book is actually a loosely coupled collection of short stories, each highlighting a different aspect of the bunch's way of life and characters. I just can't stop being amazed by this author, his command of the language and ability to set you into the background of some period and group of people, to make you feel like you're actually experiencing the scenes. The book is humoristic, and, IMHO quite optimistic. It's heart-warming to read about these worry-less bums, how they breeze through life happy at their share. Recommended!

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