Welcome to Phil Mansell's Paperblog Writer Blog.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Welcome to the Palace Flophouse Grill

John Steinbeck
Finally watched the BBC4 programme on one of my favourite authors, John Steinbeck. It was good despite Melvyn Bragg who insisted on quoting from 'The Grapes of Wrath' and 'Cannery Row'. Big mistake. He sounded nothing like Henry Fonda - he was all nasal and South Bank Show.

Back in our carefree student days, my mate Dancin' Jones and I had several ambitions - including writing a hit musical about the plumbers of Balham - but chief among them was going to live with Mack and the Boys at their doss-house shack which they called the Palace Flophouse Grill. Nothing to do all day but laze around in the California sun, drinking cheap whisky and scavenging food from Lee Chong's grocery store. It's all in 'Cannery Row'. Here's the beginning:

Mack and the Boys
"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 pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky-tonks, restaurants and whore-houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flop-houses."

Now we need a decent documentary about Ernie Hemingway. He was once challenged to write a novel in 6 words and came up with "Baby shoes for sale. Never used."  So much for his tough, grizzled old git image. Of course writing all those Mills & Boon romances didn't help him any either.

Did either Stenibeck or Hemingway write the Great American Novel? Possibly. Melville's 'Moby Dick' is supposed to be up there as a contender but I must confess I've never read it. I only know the first line ("Pardon me, boy, is that the Chatanooga choo-choo?" Later a hit song for Glenn Miller not to mention his orchestra.) According to Seinfeld, the second time you read 'Moby Dick'  Ahab and the whale become great friends.

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