Ed Ricketts: Stienbeck’s Doc & Casey

I just finished reading Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and liked it a lot. It’s about these men (and a few women) that live in Monterey: a group of bums led by this guy Mack, a grocer Lee Chong, some kindhearted prostitutes, and a marine biologist, loved by all, who goes by Doc. I really loved the Doc character. He’s a really mellow, philosophical, set apart guy, lover of drink and women and music. The first half deals with the men’s lives and how they got that way; all around f-ups, who you can’t really trust, but not necessarily bad people. The second half, mostly revolves around these men and their desire to do something nice for Doc and what becomes of it.

After, looking up the book I found out the Doc character was based on a good friend of Steinbeck’s, Ed Ricketts, who was a marine biologist, ecologist and philosopher. I also read that in addition to Stienbeck, Henry Miller and Joseph Campbell were included in his circle of friends.  Wow.. I would’ve loved to be a fly on the wall among that little group. I found out he was also the inspiration for another favorite character, the ex-preacher Jim Casey in The Grapes of Wrath.

Ed Ricketts

So I’m all hopped up to read his books now. I’d love to get a hold on his philosophical essays & book Between Pacific Tides, which is supposed to be a pioneering work in marine biology. I love reading about things like that, tide pools.. ocean life.. it reminds me of playing make believe around tide pools growing up.

(Okay. As I write this I just noticed that NPR posted a story about Ed Rickett’s and Cannery Row. I can’t wait to listen to it.)

Aaanndd… If you already knew about Rickett’s you can disregard this message. It was news to me!


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4 Responses to Ed Ricketts: Stienbeck’s Doc & Casey

  1. Herb Behrens says:

    OK. After you have read and used “Between Pacific Tides”, I suggest you read, “Sea of Cortez”[ by Steinbeck and Ricketts], “Breaking Through” [Ricketts’ essays, etc], edited by Katherine A Rodger, “Renaissance Man of Cannery Row” [life and letters of Edward F. Ricketts], edited by Katherine Rodger, and “Beyond the Outer Shores” [ … Ed Ricketts, the pioneering ecologist who inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell] by Eric E. Tamm. These are all in print. “Fire In The Mind” is a “biography of Joseph Campbell, and it will give you some insight into the relationship of Steinbeck, Campbell and Ricketts. Jackson Benson’s biography of John Steinbeck will also enlighten you about ER and JS. Write if you have more questions

    • You sound like you know a lot about him! You wouldn’t happen to do library work do you? I’ve worked in a few and sense an educator!

      I definitely will check out, “Fire in the Mind.” “Breaking Through,” is the one I really want to get a hold of!

      • Herb Behrens says:

        No, I am not an “educator”. I am a volunteer at the National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, CA. My wife conducts tours of Ed Ricketts/’ lab for the City of Monterey, SHE is the expert on Ricketts. During our Steinbeck Festival [this year ion May] we usually have tours of the lab [ although Robbie probably will not do them] There is an essay on Ed Ricketts, written by John Steinbeck, entitled, “About Ed Ricketts”. It is reprinted in “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” . This is Steinbeck;s view of his GOOD friend. Two other publications would have much information about Ricketts. :Edward F. Ricketts” by Richard Astro [Western Writers Series], very difficult to find. “The Outer shores”, another collection of some of Ricketts’ writings edited by Joe; Hedgpeth [ who knew Ricketts] Again not an easy book to find. It is published bty the Mad River Press. Maybe a librry can search for it. I have seen these on E-Bay for a long price. Campbell accompanied Ricketts on a trip to Pacific Northwest, but was not what you would call an Assistant. Good reading on Ricketts, a fascinating thinker and interesting man. Write if you wish.

        Herb Behrens

  2. Wow, how interesting! That sound’s like a fun task. I’d love to take a literary tour of California sometime. Thank you for all the information and for taking the time to tell me! I will definitely write if I have questions!

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