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April Book Club Meeting, Alternative Meeting

Wine, women, song and tears; these are the ingredients of our April book. Let's read a classic! Please join us for a book discussion. The April book is Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck.


Published in 1935, Tortilla Flat was Steinbeck’s first major critical success. It 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.


In the past, people have frequently been disappointed because they had read the book but "LIFE" interrupted their plans to attend the Thursday night discussion. For April we will try offering 2 discussions on the book: 1 discussion at the normal time on Thursday, April 18 and 1 discussion on Saturday, April 27. Choose the date/time that best fits your schedule: attend one or attend both.


Since our discussion is held at the Nordstrom Market Cafe, I plan on enjoying breakfast during our discussion. Eating or drinking is optional but I certainly plan on enjoying something to eat and drink during our discussion. The Nordstrom Market Cafe is located on the second floor of Norstroms in the Columbia Mall.



Adopting the structure and themes of the Arthurian legend, Steinbeck created a "Camelot" on a shabby hillside above Monterey on the California coast and peopled it with a colorful band of knights. As Steinbeck chronicles their thoughts and emotions, temptations and lusts, he spins a compelling tale which is ultimately touched by sorrow.


In the town of Tortilla Flat above beautiful Monterey lived a group of men called the paisanos. They were drunkards, thieves, ruffians, and vagabonds, but they were also surprisingly good at heart; requiring little more from life than friendship and a little wine. One of the famous quotes from Tortilla Flat describes the paisanos' relationship with wine:

Two gallons is a great deal of wine, even for two paisanos. Spiritually the jugs may be graduated thus: Just below the shoulder of the first bottle, serious and concentrated conversation. Two inches farther down, sweetly sad memory. Three includes more, thoughts of old and satisfactory loves. An inch, thoughts of bitter loves. Bottom of the first jug, general and undirected sadness. Shoulder of the second jug, black, unholy despondency. Two fingers down a song of death or longing. A thumb, every other song each one knows. The graduations stop here, for the trail splits and there is no certainty. From this point on anything can happen.













Book Availability at the Howard Count Public Library

Tortilla Flat is available for checkout at the Howard County Public Library. The Howard County Public Library has 19 copies of the book.


I have put in a request to have 5 copies of the book reserved for our book club. These 5 copies should be available for checkout starting March 28. The books will be held at the Central Branch and are available for checkout on a first come, first serve basis. They are at the fiction help desk on the first floor of the Library and are held under the book club name "Meetup." Tell the Librarian that you are a member of the "Meetup" book club and you can check the book out using your Library card. The address and hours for the Central Branch are:


Howard County Library Central Branch

10375 Little Patuxent Pkwy

Columbia, MD 21044



Branch Hours

Mon. - Thurs. 10 am - 9 pm

Fri. - Sat. 10 am - 6 pm

Sun. 1 pm - 5 pm

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  • Joanne

    Good discussion. Nice meeting everyone

    1 · April 28, 2013

  • Wayne M.

    I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at our Saturday morning book club discussion. For those who are attending for the first time, we meet at the very back of the Nordstrom Marketplace Cafe restaurant which is on the second floor of Nordstroms. One additional question for us to think about and discuss at our meeting is:

    What might Steinbeck have been getting at? Does he portray the Paisanos as heroes...or not? (Read Steinbeck's preface.) To what degree is this story a commentary on society's materialism?

    See you tomorrow!

    April 26, 2013

  • Wayne M.

    Hi everyone, I hope that your "Tortilla Flat" reading is going well. Here is a question for us to think about as we are reading. Let's discuss the answer to this question at our Saturday meeting:

    To what extent do you admire or disapprove of the Paisanos and their way of life?

    April 24, 2013

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