Books: Back to the Riffraff

SWEET THURSDAY (273 pp.)—John Steinbeck—Viking ($3.50).

John Steinbeck respects the underdog, but he melts uncontrollably before a no-good, boozed-up bum. His sentimental eulogies of riffraff began with his first successful book. Tortilla Flat (1935), continued in Cannery Row (1945), and appear again in Sweet Thursday, which is really a return visit to Cannery Row. It reads like stuff that has been salvaged from the wastebasket. All the characters in Sweet Thursday (who live in Monterey, Calif., Steinbeck's home territory) have a lot in common: rotgut whisky in their bellies, leather in their hides, gold...

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