"How can the poem and the stink and the grating noise - the quality of light, the tone, the habit and the dream - be set down alive?"
Steinbeck goes on to answer this question in his introduction to Cannery Row. But what good are answers? (If you're curious, find it in the Bantam edition ). We all have to all of us be grateful for the question.
Of course the book itself, Cannery Row, is an attempt to answer the question. What isn't?
... Incidentally, Steinbeck waxes Steinian in the same edition when he dedicates the book (without punctuation):