June 4, 2012

Tortilla Flat

by Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor

Tortilla Flat, do you recognize the title? Written in 1935 by one of our greatest novelists, his fourth novel was an account of friends enjoying life after the Great War.  This sometimes forgotten novel was the author’s first critical and commercial success. It was made into a movie some years later with stars such as Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr and John Garfield. This often forgotten title was just the beginning for the author. Greater known titles, such as Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Cannery Row and East of Eden were to follow. John Steinbeck was getting the critical and commercial acclaim as well as the recognition of the public with Tortilla Flat.

In our local Barnes and Noble there is a reprint of a promotional poster for Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men by noting him as author of Tortilla Flat. I found that interesting. I am looking back at all his great titles and the poster was looking forward with only the one successful novel under his belt. Tortilla Flat was his launching pad. The movie Tortilla Flat had yet to be filmed and wouldn’t be for another two years so there was not recognition from the movie. The recognition was strictly from the book itself which was published two years earlier. The Grapes of Wrath came along in 1939 followed by the film Tortilla Flat in 1942. Cannery Row was written in 1945 and East of Eden in 1952. All of which we now recognize as better known titles but again our timeline is seen from the future.

The promotion of Of Mice and Men was carried by the success of Tortilla Flat so the question is, “What is your Tortilla Flat?” What is it you can use for your launching pad? It is something well known or soon will be well known? Whatever it is you must use it. Steinbeck did and then in future years he used The Grapes of Wrath to promote Cannery Row and again all of the above to promote East of Eden. We must use what we have whether it is known or not. Move ahead with your success to support you no matter how large or small you may think it is. Use your Tortilla Flat and who knows, the next time you may use your Of Mice and Men to promote your very own The Grapes of Wrath. Promote yourself! 


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