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Travels with Charley (Classics on Cassette)

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30 review for Travels with Charley (Classics on Cassette)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    “I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation- a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any HERE. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every states I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move.” “I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation- a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any HERE. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every states I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move.” The steed...Rocinante! John Steinbeck was not feeling very well before he decided to take a trip across country. It wasn’t only physical, but also a general malaise about the condition of the country and his own place in it. Early in the book he makes a statement that reveals exactly his state of mind. The words betray a clairvoyance of a near future that would catch up with him in 1968. “I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I've lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.” Okay, that is the life philosophy that he has tried to live by, but it is what he says next that shows that he is feeling the tight grip of his impending demise. ”My wife married a man; I saw no reason why she should inherit a baby. I knew that ten or twelve thousand miles driving a truck, alone and unattended, over every kind of road, would be hard work, but to me it represented the antidote for the poison of the professional sick man. And in my own life I am not willing to trade quality for quantity. If this projected journey should prove too much then it was time to go anyway. I see too many men delay their exits with a sickly, slow reluctance to leave the stage. It’s bad theater as well as bad living. I am very fortunate in having a wife who likes being a woman, which means that she likes men, not elderly babies. Although this last foundation for the journey was never discussed I am sure she understood it.” Steinbeck lighting up the coffin nails that would eventually kill him with the wife he had a hard time leaving behind. So he is on a heroic quest. He even found the loyal steed to carry him from place to place. He named her Rocinante after the horse in Don Quixote as if he’d already decided before starting that for most of the journey he was going to be tilting at windmills. Bill Steigerwald, former journalist, in 2010 decided to unravel the murky, twisting road of Steinbeck’s trip by following in his tire tracks. Instead of a GMC pickup, specially made with a deluxe cabin, Steigerwald took his Toyota Rav4 and slept in Walmart parking lots and used car lots. His goal was to try to part the curtain of pure mythology and actually determine where and what Steinbeck did. There are discrepancies. There are holes in Steinbeck’s...lets call it a tale...so large that you could have driven Rocinante pulling the Empire State building through these gaps and still had clearance on both sides. Bill Barich wrote in his book “Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck’s America”. “Steinbeck was extremely depressed, in really bad health, and was discouraged by everyone from making the trip. He was trying to recapture his youth, the spirit of the knight-errant. But at that point he was probably incapable of interviewing ordinary people. He’d become a celebrity and was more interested in talking to Dag Hammarskjold and Adlai Stevenson.” So the thinking is, that instead of this solo trip where he has cut all ties to the comforts of his life and is out among the people pressing the flesh and writing down his observations of real America, that Travels with Charley is actually a tall tale. The truth is, for most of the trip, he was in luxury hotels, motels, and only camping in Rocinante occasionally. The writing, well crap, he is a novelist. He was not spinning most of it out of whole cloth, but pretty close. The original manuscript, I’m told, has his wife Elaine as a companion through much more of the trip than what he admits in the book. In the story he has her flying out to Chicago as an emergency care package dropping in to give solace to the weary traveler. I do find it sweet how attached to his wife he is. He had a hard time leaving her and I’m sure at some point the decision was made that if this trip is going to be any kind of success at all that he needed the care and comfort of his wife along the way. The book doesn’t have the same ring to it as Travels with Charley and Elaine. But let’s talk about Charley. ”...I took one companion on my journey--an old French gentleman poodle known as Charley. Actually his name is Charles le Chien. He was born in Bercy on the outskirts of Paris and trained in France, and while he knows a little poodle-English, he responds quickly only to commands in French. Otherwise he has to translate, and that slows him down. He is a very big poodle, of a color called bleu, and he is blue when he is clean. Charley is a born diplomat. He prefers negotiation to fighting, and properly so, since he is very bad at fighting.” Charles le Chien and the author. We learn that Charley has crooked front teeth that he makes a Ptth sound through whenever he requires Steinbeck’s attention or as a form of general commentary on the state of affairs. He mutters to himself when agitated and he does have a prostate issue on the trip that required emergency veterinarian help. Unexpected he turns into a demon dog when he catches a whiff of bear in Yellowstone. As Steinbeck refers to him as his suddenly ”Jekyll Headed Dog”. He proves to be a source of comfort to Steinbeck when the blues, which were never far away, would descend upon him. “A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ.” The most depressing moment in the trip is when Steinbeck stops in New Orleans to go see “the cheerleaders” and to experience first hand the hatred that was blooming over desegregation of schools. ”These blowzy women with their little hats and their clippings hungered for attention. They wanted to be admired. They simpered in happy, almost innocent triumph when they were applauded. Theirs was the demented cruelty of egocentric children, and somehow this made their insensate beastliness much more heartbreaking. These were not mothers, not even women. They were crazy actors playing to a crazy audience.” These were young, white working mothers who every day stood in front of the schools and screamed the most ”bestial and filthy and degenerate” words at little black girls trying to go to school. Ruby Bridges, one of four little black girls that had to be escorted to school by U.S. Marshalls. Most white parents pulled their kids out of the schools, but those brave souls that tried to take their kids to school were met with the same vile language and threats. Soon the black girls were the only ones in the two schools. It makes me nauseous every time I see footage from this event. One of my favorite parts of the book was Steinbeck’s time among the Redwoods. “The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.” If you have never seen them make sure that on any trip to California that you take the time to go walk among giants. These trees are over a thousand years old and over 95% of the original old growth have been logged for their excellent timber. They are the oldest living things on the planet. How baffling it must be to entities, that are time capsules of the activities of the planet, to find themselves being destroyed by these ants on the surface of the earth who with bits of sharp steel can wipe out a 1,000 years of life within moments. It shakes the soul to contemplate. So let us believe that most of this book is fabrication, that Steinbeck poured himself a cup of coffee liberally laced with Applejack and typed up a series of events that never quite happened. He could throw in a few observations about an America that he didn’t have to stray far from home to determine. “American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash--all of them--surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered in rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountain of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use.” He could disguise his guile with such pithy remarks as: ”...I cannot commend this account as an America that you will find. So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a weary evening world.” I’ve taken trips with people that when we arrive back home you would think from comparing their memories to mine that we went to the same place, but possibly in a parallel universe. I feel the same way sometimes when I read a review of a person who read a book I liked. I feel as if we had read two different books. It is because we did. My view of life is different from everyone else’s and so is yours. We have different experiences. We bring those experiences to traveling, to reading, to conversations, and the whole kaleidoscope of it all colors our memories. Regardless of the level of truth that this book represents I was able to spend 246 pages with the man John Steinbeck. No biographer can ignore the personal philosophies that sprinkle the pages of this book. This is a weary soul that still occasionally finds moments of brightness. He is not a note taker, because he confessed he generally loses them anyway. He lets what he sees percolate through the stratosphere to the core of his brain until the purest of thoughts lands on his tongue. Some of his “observations” were gems, some feel wooden and maybe needed the deft touch of a healthier man. I took his journey, maybe not the physical one he presents, but the journey of the mind of a writer trying to share a few last thoughts with the readers he felt destined to lose. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 5 out of 5

    karen

    dude, steinbeck is so much better than kerouac. and i know that is a totally obvious statement, but if i want to read a story about a man traveling across america and describing his findings, it is going to be a man with a varied vocabulary, a keen eye for detail, and some powers of interpreting his experiences. john, i am listening... this is my first nonfiction from steinbeck, and i am impressed with how conversational it reads. he has a real skill in making his experiences near-visible to the reader,in both his physical dude, steinbeck is so much better than kerouac. and i know that is a totally obvious statement, but if i want to read a story about a man traveling across america and describing his findings, it is going to be a man with a varied vocabulary, a keen eye for detail, and some powers of interpreting his experiences. john, i am listening... this is my first nonfiction from steinbeck, and i am impressed with how conversational it reads. he has a real skill in making his experiences near-visible to the reader,in both his physical descriptions and his musings about what an "american" is. i feel like he would be a fantastic road-trip companion, and i envy charley. and that is another thing. when it comes to dogs, i am completely breed-ist. there are dogs that i love, and then there are dogs i think should be banned from breeding, so i don't have to see them ever again. poodles are among these breeds. they are the silliest of all dogs, and how a man's man like steinbeck could travel across the country with one of them baffles me. this is not a dog, it is an aberration: but, for steinbeck's sake, i can read about a poodle for a little while, and it is sweet how they bond with each other. but i still think they are ugly and not "real" dogs. steinbeck misses out on an investment opportunity: if i were a good businessman, and cared a tittle for my unborn great-grandchildren, which i do not, i would gather all the junk and the wrecked automobiles, comb the city dumps, and pile these gleanings in mountains and spray the whole thing with that stuff the navy uses to mothball ships. at the end of a hundred years my descendants would be permitted to open this treasure trove and would be the antique kings of the world. if the battered, cracked, and broken stuff our ancestors tried to get rid of now brings so much money, think what a 1954 oldsmobile, or a 1960 toastmaster will bring - and a vintage waring mixer - lord, the possibilities are endless! things we have to pay to have hauled away could bring fortunes. of course he is being facetious here, but i for one would kill for some vintage appliances - in another life - in a better apartment - i would have a fantastic kitchen filled with these old timey kitchen things, and i curse steinbeck for not giving a tittle. steinbeck does not get sucked into revisionist nostalgia: even while i protest the assembly-line production of our food, our songs, our language, and eventually our souls, i know that it was a rare home that baked good bread in the old days. mother's cooking was with rare exceptions poor, that good unpasteurized milk touched only by flies and bits of manure crawled with bacteria, the healthy old-time life was riddled with aches, sudden death from unknown causes, and that sweet local speech i mourn was the child of illiteracy and ignorance. it is the nature of a man as he grows older, a small bridge in time, to protest against change, particularly change for the better. but it is true that we have exchanged corpulence for starvation, and either one will kill us. i am so glad my real-world book club finally chose something i can review on here instead of just a short story or an essay or a poem...and this time, i will have something to add! they are all european intellectual types, with their tales of berlin and ukraine and their war stories (as both witness and participant) and i just sit there and drink my wine and play the role of "very good young listener". thank you, steinbeck for giving america some street cred and fodder for booktalks! come to my blog!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    I usually enjoy fiction, but a mite cheated when I learn that a travelogue isn't. I'm sure some people enjoy the writing regardless of the misleading content. Steinbeck never went to some of the places in the book, he made up the folks that he never met and the hotels and resorts he and his wife stayed in are a bit more luxurious than the camper top on his GMC pick-up. On the plus side, he did purchase a pick-up truck and add a camper top to it. His wife did have a poodle named Charley.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    4 to 4.5 stars It seems like lately I have been reading a lot of books about road trips. This is just fine with me as I love the open road! Getting some perspective on others' experiences on the highway combines road trips with my other favorite hobby . . . reading, of course! Travels With Charlie is mid 20th century America in the words of one of the most American authors that ever was. Just a truck, a dog, and the open road. It is poetic and beautiful. It is dark and myst 4 to 4.5 stars It seems like lately I have been reading a lot of books about road trips. This is just fine with me as I love the open road! Getting some perspective on others' experiences on the highway combines road trips with my other favorite hobby . . . reading, of course! Travels With Charlie is mid 20th century America in the words of one of the most American authors that ever was. Just a truck, a dog, and the open road. It is poetic and beautiful. It is dark and mysterious. It funny and infuriating. Don't go in expecting a smooth ride, because 1960s America was full of pot holes and speed traps! Steinbeck is viewing post WWII America before new technology takes over and shrinks the country down. When each region still each had a strong unique mystique of their own. Where prejudices still ran high in some places if you were not a local or not the right color (and, yes, I know this is still an issue today, but what Steinbeck describes is extreme). And when vending machines at rest stops could still blow Steinbeck's mind as the most cutting edge retail technology. He pulls no punches when it comes to telling the reader how much he loved or loathed his experiences. Because of this, some people may have a hard time reading this without getting upset. I think works like this are so important. We have plenty of books preserving information on major historical events, but day to day life needs it's time in the sun as well. To be able to read something like this about life in my country around the time my parents were teenagers has the potential to impact me a lot more than learning about the major news events of the time period. I am not sure how much an impact this book might have on non-Americans, but I think everyone who grew up in the United States will be captivated.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    John Steinbeck put a house on a pickup, left the wife behind in their Long Island home and traveled the nation for several months. This is his tale of that experience. I found many quotables here, and I guess one should expect that when the traveler’s name is Steinbeck. In a book of about two hundred pages, one can hardly expect a detailed look at all of America. Steinbeck picks his spots. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. It was, of necessity, merely a sketch of some parts of the country. But John Steinbeck put a house on a pickup, left the wife behind in their Long Island home and traveled the nation for several months. This is his tale of that experience. I found many quotables here, and I guess one should expect that when the traveler’s name is Steinbeck. In a book of about two hundred pages, one can hardly expect a detailed look at all of America. Steinbeck picks his spots. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. It was, of necessity, merely a sketch of some parts of the country. But some of those sketches should hang in the Louvres. Two in particular grabbed me. His description of “The Cheerleaders,” a group of women who gathered every day at a newly integrated southern elementary school to taunt and threaten the black kids and Steinbeck’s look at the culture surrounding that was chilling, a close portrait of an incendiary place at an incendiary time, and is, alone, a reason to read this book. The other was his depiction of a redwood forest in northern California, where the massive trees alter dawn and blot out the night sky. Steinbeck and Charley - from the NY Times The subtitle of the book is “In Search of America.” What travel books are really about, particularly when undertaken by a literary person, is self-discovery. It works the same as in literature. The road, the quest, the journey all exist in an interior landscape and lead to an inner destination. I did not feel that this was much at work here, and was disappointed. Steinbeck kept his eyes on the external road. Sometimes his snapshots of early 1960s America were uninteresting. Sometimes they were compelling. The compelling parts made the trip one worth taking. =============================EXTRA STUFF Apparently, there is some thought that not all the material in this book was actually...um...real. GR friend Jim sent along a link to a site by a guy named Bill Steigerwald, who writes about Steinbeck. Looks like he did a fair bit of research and concluded that Steinbeck's journey may have been more of an internal one than we believed. check it out.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    I first read this book in high school, and it's what made me fall in love with travelogues. In 1960, John Steinbeck drove a small camper around the United States with his dog, Charley. He wrote that he wanted to get to know his country again, to learn more about this "new America." "For many years I have traveled in many parts of the world. In America I live in New York, or dip into Chicago, or San Francisco. But New York is no more America than Paris is France or London is England. Thus I disco I first read this book in high school, and it's what made me fall in love with travelogues. In 1960, John Steinbeck drove a small camper around the United States with his dog, Charley. He wrote that he wanted to get to know his country again, to learn more about this "new America." "For many years I have traveled in many parts of the world. In America I live in New York, or dip into Chicago, or San Francisco. But New York is no more America than Paris is France or London is England. Thus I discovered that I did not know my own country. I, an American writer, writing about America, was working from memory, and the memory is at best a faulty, warpy reservoir. I had not heard the speech of America, smelled the grass and trees and sewage, seen its hills and water, its color and quality of light. I knew the changes only from books and newspapers. But more than this, I had not felt the country for twenty-five years. In short, I was writing of something I did not know about, and it seems to me that in a so-called writer this is criminal. My memories were distorted by twenty-five intervening years." "Travels with Charley" was published in 1962, and Steinbeck, who had been in poor health, died just six years later. I remember loving this book. I loved Steinbeck's stories about the people he met and the places he visited, and even the details of how he organized the camper and his trip. I have recommended this book to countless friends over the years, gushing about how good it was. So you can imagine my UTTER HEARTBREAK because I found out that parts of the story were fabricated or fictionalized. Reporters have verified that some details in the narrative could not have been true, and that Steinbeck made up a lot of the conversations he supposedly had with people along the road. (This news first broke in 2011, but I didn't learn it until I saw it mentioned in John Waters' book about hitchhiking, "Carsick.") When the 50th anniversary edition of "Travels with Charley" was published in 2012, it came with a disclaimer: "Indeed, it would be a mistake to take this travelogue too literally, as Steinbeck was at heart a novelist, and he added countless touches – changing the sequence of events, elaborating on scenes, inventing dialogue – that one associates more with fiction than nonfiction." So here is my conundrum: Knowing that parts of it have been fictionalized, should I continue to recommend it to others? If the book is as good as I remember, doesn't that outweigh its dubious origin? Or I could just live in denial and remember the joy I felt when I first read it. Update June 2014: I was so upset to learn that Steinbeck had embellished his stories that I decided to reread the book to see how it holds up. It was great! It was glorious! I will even say that I think it's one of the best travelogues written about America, ever. "Travels with Charley" is beautifully written - it is so quotable and insightful that I had dozens of pages marked. "It would be pleasant to be able to say of my travels with Charley, 'I went out to find the truth about my country and I found it.' And then it would be such a simple matter to set down my findings and lean back comfortably with a fine sense of having discovered truths and taught them to my readers. I wish it were that easy... This monster of a land, this mightiest of nations, this spawn of the future, turns out to be the macrocosm of microcosm me. If an Englishman or a Frenchman or an Italian should travel my route, see what I saw, hear what I heard, their stored pictures would be not only different from mine but equally different from one another. If other Americans reading this account should feel it true, that agreement would only mean that we are alike in our Americanness... For all of our enormous geographic range, for all of our sectionalism, for all of our interwoven breeds drawn from every part of the ethnic world, we are a nation, a new breed. Americans are much more American than they are Northerns, Southerners, Westerners, or Easterners... The American identity is an exact and provable thing." Because it had been criticized by modern reporters, on this reread I paid more attention to Steinbecks' "conversations" with folks around the country, and yes, the dialogue was so smooth and concise that it had to have been finessed. But after considering the issue, I've relaxed on this point because I bet every writer does that. Every writer is going to streamline speech so that it reads well. Steinbeck even talks about writers who can quickly take measure of a place: "I've always admired those reporters who can descend on an area, talk to key people, ask key questions, take samplings of opinions, and then set down an orderly report very like a road map. I envy this technique and at the same time do not trust it as a mirror of reality. I feel that there are too many realities. What I set down here is true until someone else passes that way and rearranges the world in his own style." I do think Steinbeck got at the spirit of what was going on in America in 1960: it was a big election year between Kennedy and Nixon; racial tensions were high in the South because schools had been desegregated; and there was heightened anxiety about Russia and the threat of the atomic bomb. He even wrote about environmentalism and his concerns for how much waste America was producing, and he contemplated how the new cross-country interstate system would change the country. The guy was prescient, I tell you. Some of my favorite parts were when Steinbeck tried to cross into Canada with his dog and ran into a bureaucratic snafu regarding Charley's vaccination paperwork (very amusing); a warm conversation he had with a family of immigrants while they shared a drink in his camper; and when he drove through a forest of massive Redwood trees out West. "The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It's not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time. They have the mystery of ferns that disappeared a million years ago into the coal of the carboniferous era. They carry their own light and shade. The vainest, most slap-happy and irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect." Another theme Steinbeck returns to often is the wanderlust that seems to pervade Americans everywhere. He mentions how many families had started buying mobile homes so they can move more freely about, and how many others gazed at his camper and said they wished they could travel across the country. "I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation -- a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every state I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move." I so enjoyed rereading this book that I will definitely continue to recommend it to friends. I even upgraded my original 4-star rating to 5, because of how gorgeous Steinbeck's writing was. I just wish I could give Charley a biscuit and a belly rub for being such a good traveling companion.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    In 1960, when John Steinbeck was 58 years old, ill with the heart disease which was to kill him eight years later and rather discontented with life, he decided to embark on a road trip around the United States in a fitted-out pick-up truck, accompanied by his standard French poodle, Charley. Steinbeck’s plan was to re-connect with the America which had informed his fiction and to assess how much it had changed over the years. This book is the result of that trip: part memoir, part travelogue, pa In 1960, when John Steinbeck was 58 years old, ill with the heart disease which was to kill him eight years later and rather discontented with life, he decided to embark on a road trip around the United States in a fitted-out pick-up truck, accompanied by his standard French poodle, Charley. Steinbeck’s plan was to re-connect with the America which had informed his fiction and to assess how much it had changed over the years. This book is the result of that trip: part memoir, part travelogue, part philosophical treatise … and part fiction. Just how much of the narrative is fiction rather than fact has been the subject of investigation and discussion in recent years, much of it instigated by the work of journalist Bill Steigerwald, who recreated Steinbeck’s trip and exposed what he argues to be the fallacies in the narrative. This article in the New York Times summarises Steigerwald’s findings and typing Steigerwald’s name into any reliable search engine will locate a range of Steigerwald’s writings on the issue, as well as some responses to his position on the book. While I've read Steigerwald’s conclusions about Steinbeck’s journey with interest, it matters little to me that the work has been edited in such a way as to make it look like Steinbeck and Charley were travelling alone almost all the time, whereas Steinbeck’s original manuscript (held at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City) shows that Steinbeck’s wife Elaine was with him for much of the time and that he probably spent more than half the nights he was away sleeping in hotels rather than in the truck. Likewise, it matters little to me that Steinbeck’s reported conversations with people he meets on the way are fiction rather than reportage. In relation to this, the fact that Steinbeck preserved and then donated his manuscript indicates that he was not concerned that readers might discover that there was more (or possibly less) to the journey than appears in the book. Further, the narrative itself is full of disclaimers. Steinbeck does not claim that the book is a day-by-day, diary-style account of his journey. Rather, what he conveys is a range of impressions on a number of topics, some insights into issues he considered important and some at times painful self-reflection, all conveyed in Steinbeck’s powerful yet accessible prose. On some matters Steinbeck was ahead of his time. For example, what he wrote about the destruction of the environment and the overuse of packaging products (“The mountain of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use.”), expressed what I doubt was a matter of widespread public concern as early as 1960. Other parts of the narrative are much more personal. Steinbeck’s encounter with old Latino drinking buddies in a bar in Monterey is particularly poignant. As Steinbeck’s friend tries to persuade the New York resident to come “home”, Steinbeck names all of their friends who have died and concludes that Thomas Wolfe was right: “You can't go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory." Possibly the most powerful incident in the book is Steinbeck’s witnessing of the “cheerleaders” in New Orleans – a group of women who stood across the street from William Frantz Elementary school and yelled obscenities at Ruby Bridges - the first black child to attend the all-white school - and at the few white parents who did not comply with the white boycott of the school. Ruby, who had started at the school only a week or two before Steinbeck was in New Orleans, was escorted to school by federal marshalls. Her ordeal is recorded in this painting by Norman Rockwell. Shortly after witnessing the behaviour of the cheerleaders, Steinbeck decided to cut his journey short and head straight back to New York City. The narrative gives the strong impression that the incident left him heart-sick and distressed. Overall, whatever may be this book’s shortcomings as a piece of travel reportage, it's a moving and engaging piece of writing. Steinbeck had become rather a cranky old man by the time he embarked on the journey, and was an even crankier old man by time he finished it. He was certainly no longer the novelist at the peak of his powers. But there’s still passion, warmth and humour in his words and plenty for the reader who loves Steinbeck’s writing to engage with. And there's Charley. Charley is wonderful.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    My father bought me this book when I was probably about eight years old, and I read it quickly and fell in love with it. One day (now that I've thought of it, probably sooner than later) I'll reread it, but for now I'm content believing I would still find it a good read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Goddamn it! I've driven coast to coast across the U.S. fives times already and yet, thanks to Travels with Charley I'm ready to go again! During the mid-century period, discovering America and/or oneself through the medium of the road-trip came into vogue. While other prominent authors, such as Kerouac and Thompson, were publishing their own, more heralded versions, I prefer Steinbeck's. It lacks the hedonism of the others and I love him for that. And furthermore, these journals often get of Goddamn it! I've driven coast to coast across the U.S. fives times already and yet, thanks to Travels with Charley I'm ready to go again! During the mid-century period, discovering America and/or oneself through the medium of the road-trip came into vogue. While other prominent authors, such as Kerouac and Thompson, were publishing their own, more heralded versions, I prefer Steinbeck's. It lacks the hedonism of the others and I love him for that. And furthermore, these journals often get offtrack, forgetting the road for some favored topic that the writer expounds upon until it becomes a journey of its own and the original path fades from memory. Steinbeck veers off now and then, but it's always for a good cause and it never lasts too long. Here's a few of my personal favorite highlights from his trip: :) Charley. Before I began I had no idea who this Charley was, but he's a lovable guy and he made the whole thing all the more enjoyable to read. :o I love Steinbeck's super sleuthing in the Chicago hotel room, where he adeptly pieces together a clandestine romance in a way that would impress Sherlock Holmes. :) The book gets extra marks for a visit, description and kind words for Deer Isle, Maine, where from my grandmother's kin hail. :O Discovering that what I thought were imagined characters - outrageously colorful characters - from his novel Tortilla Flat were actually real people. While Grapes of Wrath will go down as a lasting work of genius, it carries with it the weight of moral baggage and an oppressive sadness. Maybe Travels with Charley is not the same sort of classic literature masterpiece that will survive the ages, but I found it to be a pure joy to read from start to finish.

  10. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Sutton

    In Travels with Charley: In Search of America, John Steinbeck provides an entertaining and wry account of his observations as he road trips with his poodle in what essentially becomes his house on wheels, Rocinante. I'm a big fan of Steinbeck's work (I really like what I see as his sympathetic treatment of quirky and damaged characters in novels like Cannery Row and Tortilla Flats). I also remember enjoying Travels with Charley (at least the few chapters of it which I read while I was in high sc In Travels with Charley: In Search of America, John Steinbeck provides an entertaining and wry account of his observations as he road trips with his poodle in what essentially becomes his house on wheels, Rocinante. I'm a big fan of Steinbeck's work (I really like what I see as his sympathetic treatment of quirky and damaged characters in novels like Cannery Row and Tortilla Flats). I also remember enjoying Travels with Charley (at least the few chapters of it which I read while I was in high school). That said, despite frequent protestations that he wasn't upset about changes/progress, I was irritated both by Steinbeck's defensiveness and by all the time he spent complaining about change. I did like Steinbeck's assessment of Americans as a people on the move, but I didn't see him building toward anything in this travelogue. I know that's the nature of travel writing, but I wanted more from Steinbeck. When he climbs out of Rocinante and explores a new town, does he see characters from his novels? Does he see material for books? Or only this specific travelogue? I wasn't sure how he grew during this trip, just that he (and Charley) seemed to intuitively know when the journey was over. I guess I was looking for something that wasn't there.

  11. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    Six years before he died, John Steinbeck (1902-1968) had a lonesome trip aboard a camper named Rocinante (after Don Quixote’s horse) around the USA. He said that he would like to see this country on a personal level before he died as he made a good living writing about it. Considering his heart condition, such trip alone could have been disastrous to his health but he insisted. The main question that he would like to be answered was “What are Americans like today?” and after travelling with his poodle Six years before he died, John Steinbeck (1902-1968) had a lonesome trip aboard a camper named Rocinante (after Don Quixote’s horse) around the USA. He said that he would like to see this country on a personal level before he died as he made a good living writing about it. Considering his heart condition, such trip alone could have been disastrous to his health but he insisted. The main question that he would like to be answered was “What are Americans like today?” and after travelling with his poodle Charley for around 10,000 miles for 3 months, he did not like the answer that he got. He saw the wastefulness of the people. He got worried about excessive packaging that consumers liked. He noticed the ambiguity of culture brought about my mass media technologies. Advancement in technologies, though giving people instant gratification, could alienate members of the families from each other. He met people who could not be trusted even by giving the right direction. He met poor migrant potato pickers from Canada (that reminded me of the Joads family in his opus, The Grapes of Wrath). He finally saw Niagara Falls that made him happy because finally we could say we saw it already. He met unreasonable and illogical border authorities. He saw how people in different states differ on how they talk to one another and treat other people. For example, in New England people spoke very little and waited for him to come over while in Midwestern cities, people were more outgoing and did not hesitate approaching him. He got amazed on how fast the population grew in those states that he had visited before. When he visited Sauk Centre because he would like to see the birthplace of his favorite writer, Sinclair Lewis he got disheartened. A waitress in the restaurant did not know who Lewis was. In fact, ignorance, according to him, was prevalent in most people he encountered particularly in politics, economics and culture. In Texas, he despised the so-called “Cheerleaders” who were protesting the integration of black children in a school in New Orleans. In New Orleans, he learned that racism of the South was not confined with those towards blacks but also towards Jews. The trip ended with Steinbeck missing a U-turn and telling the policeman: “Officer, I’ve driven this thing all over the country – mountains, plains, deserts. And now I’m back in my own town, where I live – and I’m lost.” This is my 3rd book by Steinbeck and for me this is the most down-to-earth. Although I have only been to California, Philadelphia, Texas and Ohio, visualizing those places he visited and conversations that he had with the people he met was not a problem. I used to enjoy watching American movies in the 50’s and 60’s and I was able to picture those scenes in my mind. Also, I think Steinbeck wanted to have a last hand long look with the people he wrote about in his novels that made him who he was – one of the greatest American authors (and certainly one of my favorite novelists of all times). So what if he had a heart problem? So what if he was alone with just a dog to talk to? So what if there was a raging snow storm outside? So what if he might be killed by dangerous mad men in the forests and highways? The thought of Steinbeck risking his life to be able to see the country for the last time and talk to the people who patronized his novels was a marked of a good artist or, simply, a good humble man. And oh yes, if you love reading about dogs, read this because Charley could even talk. Steinbeck imagined words being said by his dog in one of the scenes and their dialogues were so clever and amusing. Steinbeck could write anything. He could make any scenario believable. Enough for me to gasp for air as his words were always outrageously breathtaking.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    A nice way to travel 1960s America again is to hop into a camper truck with John Steinbeck and his dog, Charley. Plagued by a chronic disease and probably feeling like it was now or never, Mr. Steinbeck hit the road from his home in Sag Harbor and traveled across the states and back again, making astute observations as he went and sharing a bit of the flavor of America in this moment of great upheaval and change. I was afraid this might be boring, like watching someone else’s home movies (no mat A nice way to travel 1960s America again is to hop into a camper truck with John Steinbeck and his dog, Charley. Plagued by a chronic disease and probably feeling like it was now or never, Mr. Steinbeck hit the road from his home in Sag Harbor and traveled across the states and back again, making astute observations as he went and sharing a bit of the flavor of America in this moment of great upheaval and change. I was afraid this might be boring, like watching someone else’s home movies (no matter how stunning the scenery, we just don’t want to see you posed in front of it over and over again). I should have had no fear, since this was not your everyday traveler, this was John Steinbeck. His powers of observation are acute and he knows how to render them into a free-flowing conversation with his reader. I felt he was pretty even-handed in his observations as well, even though his trek through the 1960s south made me cringe with shame. He notes that as an outsider his encounters might not be a true representation of the people, and I think he is right because he intentionally sought out the ugliest kind of setting to observe them in, but then he didn’t make up the setting or the people he saw, they were there and, while not speaking for everyone, they certainly spoke for far too many. One of my favorite parts of the book was his visit to his own home turf around Salinas, California. As he prepared to leave, he says, ”I printed it once more on my eyes, south, west, and north, and then we hurried away from the permanent and changeless past where my mother is always shooting a wildcat and my father is always burning his name with his love.” I know this feeling all too well. You can hardly visit the place of your youth with a clear and unprejudiced eye, for the past is always there coloring it a much rosier color than it actually is. That is alright, that is part of life. We are meant to feel it. I am glad I finally got around to making this trip with one of my favorite authors. It made me feel that I would have liked the man as much as I like his work.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Grip Dellabonte

    I hadn't expected to enjoy this book as much as I did. It was my first travelogue, and I only read it because, a) I was bored and b)I figured I couldn't go wrong with Steinbeck - a writer I already enjoyed reading (still do). But I have a wicked streak of wanderlust in me, too, and Steinbeck really caught me at a good time. It was Summertime, and I was already in a daydream-y mood. That mood lasted all through the book. I managed to get through the whole trip with the crank I hadn't expected to enjoy this book as much as I did. It was my first travelogue, and I only read it because, a) I was bored and b)I figured I couldn't go wrong with Steinbeck - a writer I already enjoyed reading (still do). But I have a wicked streak of wanderlust in me, too, and Steinbeck really caught me at a good time. It was Summertime, and I was already in a daydream-y mood. That mood lasted all through the book. I managed to get through the whole trip with the cranky writer, and he was actually quite good company! At the end of the trip, I found I missed not being able to climb back into his pickup (aptly named Rocinante after Don Quixote's horse)with him and the noble Charley, and head out on adventures new. But the mood passed, and so did the Summer. Many Summers later, I had a chance to go to the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas. I honestly have to say I got a bit of a lump in my throat when I saw exhibited there, with her door opened invitingly, was Rocinante beckoning to me once again to climb in and go see the country with her. Quite a nice moment. If I had to pick one thing that I learned from the book it would be that it is a good idea not to have preconceived notions about the places you choose to visit. Chances are they will surprise you, and it is best to be flexible in those cases. This could reduce the possibility of becoming disenchanted with your travel destinations.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I read the Steinbeck trifecta in junior high and highschool - The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath. Since that time, graduating 20 years ago, I have not read Steinbeck again. I bought this book to read on a train trip I had planned in California, since I knew that Steinbeck's father was a train man and that he grew up in California. Since that trip was cancelled the book has lingered on my shelf at home, long enough for me to forget I had it. So when the audio version of the bo I read the Steinbeck trifecta in junior high and highschool - The Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, and The Grapes of Wrath. Since that time, graduating 20 years ago, I have not read Steinbeck again. I bought this book to read on a train trip I had planned in California, since I knew that Steinbeck's father was a train man and that he grew up in California. Since that trip was cancelled the book has lingered on my shelf at home, long enough for me to forget I had it. So when the audio version of the book came up on a BOGO sale in Audible, narrated by Gary Sinise, I bought it without checking. Ah well, the audio was great. The book will be nice to refer back to. Win/win. Steinbeck reminds me of Orwell in his non-fiction writing. Talking to individuals and writing about their experiences, focusing on people in rural areas living their everyday lives. He is traveling the country with his dog Charley in 1960, from Maine to Wisconsin to Oregon to California to Texas to the south. The world is getting ready to change and there is this feeling of the "last times" of whatever we can call the years before the president and MLK Jr are assassinated, before the Civil Rights Movement. The chapters in the south are particularly insightful and painful to read. A few broad comments on travel that I liked: "I felt at last that my journey had started; I think I hadn't really believed in it before." "We know so little of our own geography." (Maine) "It is possible, even probable, to be told a truth about a place, to accept it, to know it, and at the same time, to not know anything about it... Why then was I unprepared for the beauty of this region?" (Wisconsin) "For all of our enormous geographic range, for all of our sectionalism... we are a nation." I need to read more Steinbeck. Between his literature classics everyone studies in school and his non-fiction works like this one, he wrote several novels that I have never read. The main one I think of is East of Eden, which I also have bought and left on a shelf. I used to think I disliked him, but what I disliked as a child are traits that make me appreciate him now. His descriptiveness, his straightforward nature, his tone. I was jarred by it at age 12. I didn't realize that was a sign of growth.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I came across this dusty hardcover at an estate sale last month. This particular edition from 1962 offered a crisp, weathered cover and an inviting sketch of a man, a dog and a truck. I hopped on board. This is Steinbeck, but not the Steinbeck of fiction, the one who stands behind his creations and his delicious use of silence and space. This is Steinbeck the man. Turns out that Steinbeck the man, here recorded for all time, in his late fifties was a bit depresse I came across this dusty hardcover at an estate sale last month. This particular edition from 1962 offered a crisp, weathered cover and an inviting sketch of a man, a dog and a truck. I hopped on board. This is Steinbeck, but not the Steinbeck of fiction, the one who stands behind his creations and his delicious use of silence and space. This is Steinbeck the man. Turns out that Steinbeck the man, here recorded for all time, in his late fifties was a bit depressed, recently diagnosed as being on his way toward heart trouble, and a little weary of the world. He was also worried he was becoming "soft." So, he planned an extensive road trip, had a vehicle designed for it, and hit the road with Charley, his dog, circa 1960. This is a travelogue, but an unexpected one. Yes, the reader is taken throughout the regions of America the Beautiful. But, it is more impressive as a philosophical journey. And, even though it is sometimes dated in its fifty-year-old observations, most of what he experiences here could stand the test of time. I can think of plenty of friends who would love this book, and plenty who would set it down, bored. All I can tell you is that I cried through most of it. Not sobs, but fat, messy tears. I related to his thoughts to the point of wondering if I'm him, reincarnated. I had no idea I had so much in common with John Steinbeck. And, after all, who doesn't love a good road trip?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    My dip into the fiction of John Steinbeck turned into a journey, with East of Eden, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, The Winter of Our Discontent, The Grapes of Wrath and Sweet Thursday. It seemed appropriate to end my tour on Travels with Charley, the author's memoir of a circuitous road trip of the United States he began in September 1960 with his French poodle, Charley. Steinbeck's account begins at his home on Long Island, New York. Getting on in years, he realizes he's been writing about a country he hasn't actually seen in a quarter century My dip into the fiction of John Steinbeck turned into a journey, with East of Eden, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, The Winter of Our Discontent, The Grapes of Wrath and Sweet Thursday. It seemed appropriate to end my tour on Travels with Charley, the author's memoir of a circuitous road trip of the United States he began in September 1960 with his French poodle, Charley. Steinbeck's account begins at his home on Long Island, New York. Getting on in years, he realizes he's been writing about a country he hasn't actually seen in a quarter century. To remedy this, Steinbeck obtains a customized three-quarter ton pickup truck with a camper on top. Its features include a double bed, stove, refrigerator and chemical toilet. Steinbeck dubs the truck "Rocinante" after Don Quixote's horse and after weeks of planning, pries himself away from his wife, checks for stowaways and heads northeast for Maine. So as not to distress anyone with the truth behind his rambling, Steinbeck racks a shotgun, two rifles and a couple of fishing rods in Rocinante, " ... for it is my experience that if a man is going hunting or fishing his purpose is understood and even applauded." He notes a certain look in the eyes of those he talks to about his trip, whether neighbors or strangers, and the longing they express to join him, to break free, go somewhere, anywhere, as long as it's not here. Many have retraced Steinbeck's famous route, which passes through New England, Michigan, Illinois, Montana, the West Coast, the Southwest, Texas and New Orleans. Travels with Charley is not a comprehensive study of those areas and anyone expecting chapters to have the sizzle of a travel magazine article might be disappointed, although as a Texan, I found Steinbeck's account of the mystique of the Lone Star State to be on the money and worthy of reprint in Texas Monthly. The journey has some ups and downs for me as a reader. His visit to off-season Maine, where a motor court's management office is completely deserted when Steinbeck arrives and completely empty when he pulls out of the parking lot the next morning, has the eerie distance of a Stephen King short story. On the other hand, Steinbeck's return to his hometown of Monterey seems cast with characters from Tortilla Flat or some other book. Steinbeck's trip culminates in New Orleans, where he witnesses vile protests outside a desegregated school. The racist asides thrown in Steinbeck's direction from one white man to another are sickening, but what's even more revealing is the body language of a black man the author insists on giving a ride, briefly, before the passenger decides he's safer walking the roadside than riding with a white man with New York plates asking questions about the civil rights movement. One of the revelations of Travels with Charley is how little the news cycle of the United States has really changed in fifty years. Substitute disillusionment toward FDR for disillusionment toward Obama. Substitute Russians for Al Qaeda. Substitute the debate between Kennedy/ Nixon with any political horse race going on today. Congestion, pollution, inflation are on the rise. The simplicity of our childhoods seems to be on the wane. None of this is novel to our time at all. My love for this book, however bumpy the account, is the spell it placed over me. Who hasn't wanted to lease a truck, stock up on supplies, call the dog and light out for the road? I would never follow the route that Steinbeck chose, and I think that those who've retracted his journey in an attempt to fact check truth from fiction are missing the point. Steinbeck makes a statement for resisting the comforts of what he refers to as "a professional sick person" and living out what life you have in a rocking chair. When we surrender our curiosity, we mind as well surrender our life.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    Eight years before a lifelong smoking habit finally killed his heart, John Steinbeck embarked on one last road trip across the United States. Steinbeck desired to see the country he described all his life with his own eyes - "to look again, rediscover this monster land", become reacquainted with its people. His sole companion would be Charley, a French standard poodle. Together they would board the Rocinante - Steinbeck's truck named after the horse of Don Quixote - and go and try to understand Eight years before a lifelong smoking habit finally killed his heart, John Steinbeck embarked on one last road trip across the United States. Steinbeck desired to see the country he described all his life with his own eyes - "to look again, rediscover this monster land", become reacquainted with its people. His sole companion would be Charley, a French standard poodle. Together they would board the Rocinante - Steinbeck's truck named after the horse of Don Quixote - and go and try to understand what America and Americans are like now. My plan was clear, concise, and reasonable, I think. For many years I have traveled in many parts of the world. In America I live in New York, or dip into Chicago or San Francisco. But New York is no more America than Paris is France or London is England. Thus I discovered that I did not know my own country. I, an American writer, writing about America, was working from memory, and the memory is at best a faulty, warpy reservoir. I had not heard the speech of America, smelled the grass and trees and sewage, seen its hills and water, its color and quality of light. I knew the changes only from books and newspapers. But more than this, I had not felt the country for twenty-five years. In short, I was writing of something I did not know about, and it seems to me that in a so-called writer this is criminal. My memories were distorted by twenty-five intervening years. Steinbeck and Charley at their home in Sag Harbor in 1962, the year the book was published. In 1960 John Steinbeck was 58 years old, and has already published all of his best known works - Of Mice and Men (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939), Cannery Row (1945), East of Eden (1952). Thom Steinbeck, John's oldest son, believes that his father was aware that he was dying from his heart condition, and that he took the trip to say goodbye to his country. "The whole book is a big goodbye", he says, "he just wanted to go and see it all one last time. I don't know how my stepmother let him go, because she knew his condition. He could have died at any time. But he just went out, he just wanted to see it, be a kid again, one more time. Go out and say goodbye. And I tought that's a fascinating aspect of the book - if you go back and read it and realize that Steinbeck knows he's never going to see any of this again". Rocinante on display at the Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California. Travels with Charley was a a significant success - published in the 27th of July in 1962, it reached the number one slot on the New York Times Best Seller list on the 21st of October, swinging the Nobel judges in his favor - Steinbeck would be awarded the prize just four days later. After 50 years the Nobel Academy made its record public, revealing that Steinbeck was in fact a compromise choice; it was felt that he had his best work behind him, and Steinbeck himself felt that he had not deserved the Nobel - click here to read an article from the Guardian which describes this in more detail. Steinbeck's trip took him from his home in Sag Harbor north to Maine, where he attempted to cross into Canada - where the kind Canadian custom guards inform him that they can let him in, but the U.S. won't take him back as his dog is not sterilized. After a short rant about the opressive government (wonder what he would have to say now?) Steinbeck went west. He stuck to the outer border of the country and marveled at the beauty and tranquility of the state of Montanta ( declaring it his favorite of all), before going all the way to the Pacific Northwest and down to his home state of California. Map of Steinbeck's journey as presented in the book. The first sections of the memoir are humorous in tone, full of witty interactions with quirky characters that Steinbeck encounters on the road - among them a family of French-Canadians in Maine, who worked the season as potato pickers; a travelling Shakespearean actor in the small town of Alice, in North Dakota badlands; friends from his youth in San Francisco. The tone shifts significantly after Steinbeck reaches Seattle, and is amazed at how much it has changed - he muses how progress looks like destruction, as the little town he remembered became a bustling metropolis, killing a great deal of natural beauty. He goes back east, wanting to go down and grab a bite of the Deep South. He is shocked at the racism that he encounters in New Orleans - and a share of anti-semitism as well, as he is accused of being a New York Jew, one of those "who cause all the trouble" and "stirs up the Negroes". He sees a group of "cheerleaders" - women protesting the school desegregation act, and witnesses Ruby Bridges entering the William Frantz Elementary School to their "bestial and filthy" insults. The applause that the women receive left Steinbeck depressed that the beautiful city of New Orleans was "misrepresented to the world". His enthusiasm for travel evaporates, faced with harsh reality, and he leaves for home - feeling tired of travel and wanting it to be over. Steinbeck's travelogue entered the canon of classic American travel writing, and while his position as an American man of letters remains unchallenged, dark clouds have set over this particular entry in his canon. In 2010, a Pennsylvanian named Bill Steigerwald followed the route described by Steinbeck, and traveled for over 10,000 miles. He found a number of significant inaccuracies between reality and Steinbeck's account, and wrote an article titled Sorry, Charley which appeared in the April issue of Reason magazine in 2011 and which he later expanded into a book titled Dogging Steinbeck. By following the route and checking places which Steinbeck wrote about, Steigerwald discovered that Steinbeck's actual journey was vastly different than the one he described in Travels. Steigerwald states that Steinbeck's wife, Elaine, accompanied him on 45 days out of the 75 that the trip took; that he didn't camp in the open as he described, but instead stayed in luxurious motels, hotels and resorts, including an exclusive Spalding Inn where he had to borrow a tie and jacket to be allowed to eat in the dining room. "From what I can gather, Steinbeck didn’t fictionalize in the guise of nonfiction because he wanted to mislead readers or grind some political point. He was desperate", says Steigerwald. "He had a book to make up about a failed road trip, and he had taken virtually no notes. The finely drawn characters he created in Charley are believable; it’s just not believable that he met them under anything like the conditions he describes. At crunch time, as he struggled to write Charley, his journalistic failures forced him to be a novelist again. Then his publisher, The Viking Press, marketed the book as nonfiction, and the gullible reviewers of the day—from The New York Times to The Atlantic—bought every word." Bill Barich, an American writer who also took the Steinbeck trip and published his account as Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America came to a similar conclusion. "I’m fairly certain that Steinbeck made up most of the book", he says. "The dialogue is so wooden". He goes on to add: "Steinbeck was extremely depressed, in really bad health, and was discouraged by everyone from making the trip. He was trying to recapture his youth, the spirit of the knight-errant. But at that point he was probably incapable of interviewing ordinary people. He’d become a celebrity and was more interested in talking to Dag Hammarskjold and Adlai Stevenson." Even Jay Parini, the author of a biography of Steinbeck and the man who wrote the introduction to Travels admits that he doesn't consider it to be an accurate travelogue: "I have always assumed that to some degree it’s a work of fiction. Steinbeck was a fiction writer, and here he’s shaping events, massaging them". But for him the discovery of the book's inaccuracy doesn't diminish its value: "Does this shake my faith in the book? Quite the opposite. I would say hooray for Steinbeck. If you want to get at the spirit of something, sometimes it’s important to use the techniques of a fiction writer." Parini has updated his introduction for the latest printing of the book, openly stating its romance with fiction: "It should be kept in mind, when reading this travelogue, that Steinbeck took liberties with the facts, inventing freely when it served his purposes, using everything in the arsenal of the novelist to make this book a readable, vivid narrative." This explains the more adventurous and picturesque scenes of the book and its cast of interesting and quirky personalities that Steinbeck meets on the road, like the Shakespearian actor or the romanticized potato pickers from Quebec who resemble a bit the Okies from The Grapes of Wrath. The conversations he has with them do often feel scripted, as if the characters were given cue cards to respond in an appropriate way, such as a farmer not failing to mention that Kruschev was visiting the United Nations in New York (the day of the famous Shoe-banging incident) weeks before it actually happened, and why Steinbeck happened to be in New Orleans to witness Ruby Ridge entering the desegregated school. Steinbeck's own son John is even more blunt than both Steigerwald and Barich in doubting his father: "Thom and I are convinced that he never talked to any of those people....He just sat in his camper and wrote all that shit." The shift in tone - from enthusiastic, humorous and sarcastic to melancholic and even grim - could be explained by Steinbeck reliving his trip as he was writing it, employing his wit and talent, wanting to recapture the idealism he sought but did not find and put it on paper, but failing to do so, with his enthusiasm evaporating near the end. "There’s no denying Steinbeck got away with writing a dishonest book", says Steigerwald. "Not only did he fudge the details of his road trip, but he pulled his punches about what he really thought about the America he found. In Charley he fretted about the things he didn’t like about American society: pollution, early signs of sprawl, the rise of national chains, the increasing prevalence of plastic. But in private he complained directly about the failings of his 180 million fellow Americans: They were materialistic, morally flabby, and headed down the road to national decline." Perhaps the failure of reality to meet his memories and idea of America depressed Steinbeck, and made him tinker with his account of the journey to fit his vision; the fact that he kept the original manuscript of the book - now kept at the Morgan Library & Museum and available for scrutiny - shows that he wasn't overly concerned with being exposed as a fraud. Perhaps at that point of his life he simply did not care - which would also explain his shrugging of the Nobel. Steinbeck did take a trip through the country, but it's not the one he described here - it doesn't invalidate his insights and concern about the destruction of environment and observations on American society in the mid 20th-century. Steinbeck was not using a tape recorder and a camera to record his trip, and was retelling it subjectively; from memory, and being an estabilished writer he could not help but improve it when he saw fit. His purpose was less to write actual journalism and more to see his country for one last time, as his son claimed; as he admits in the book it didn't meet his expectations. There is a sense of disappointment hanging over the book, as if the the entire trip was too bitter an experience to be put on paper; Parini notices that Steinbeck seemed to be "never quite able to bring himself to say that he was often disgusted by what he saw". And indeed it seems that he was not. One might imagine Steinbeck writing an account of all that bothered him. Who would have thought that a book written by a man who went on a trip with his poodle could have been so bleak?

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chicklit

    I have a feeling that if I had read Travels with Charley back in high school instead of The Grapes of Wrath or even Of Mice and Men, I would have actually liked Steinbeck rather than merely appreciated him. Part of my Steinbeck indifference was obviously influenced by my teenage attitude. At 15 there were other things I'd much rather have been doing than reading novels about the great depression. Also, I had that "what does this have to do with me" attitude I saw so frequently while t I have a feeling that if I had read Travels with Charley back in high school instead of The Grapes of Wrath or even Of Mice and Men, I would have actually liked Steinbeck rather than merely appreciated him. Part of my Steinbeck indifference was obviously influenced by my teenage attitude. At 15 there were other things I'd much rather have been doing than reading novels about the great depression. Also, I had that "what does this have to do with me" attitude I saw so frequently while trying to teach my college freshmen literature from the Vietnam War. But the other half of the problem was that I was exposed to those two books by a teacher who taught these novels as The Greatest Literary Masterpieces Ever. Great Literary Masterpieces have themes and symbols and (like vegetables) are consumed for (intellectual) nutrition and not for enjoyment. The image of Steinbeck that I took away from that class one of a Very Important American Author, sitting behind a grand oak desk, pondering which Important Theme to tackle next. Reading Travels with Charley showed me that my imagination was grossly mistaken. In place of the grand desk was a pickup truck and trailer and a poodle named Charley. Steinbeck ponders road maps instead of Important Themes and I was pleased to note that while he has me licked in literary masterpieces, my directional sense is far superior to his. Also, Steinbeck is funny. Really funny. And he uses his wit and dry humor to provide a commentary on American life that is still accurate today. I have a new appreciation for Steinbeck now. He's still an Important American Author, but one that shares philosophy with his poodle in the same way that I sometimes serenade my cats with Meatloaf songs. Okay, maybe not the same thing, but the point is, the memoir humanizes Steinbeck and makes him assessable. It's a shame I didn't read this sooner.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Although I read this book just last year, it was a delight to read again. I think I was struck by different aspects of the book the second time around. This time I realized just how much time Steinbeck spent describing his experiences of racism in the South. I imagine this caused some waves back in the early 1960's when the book was published, before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. But we should expect nothing less from Steinbeck, the champion of the oppressed, and chronicler of the lives o Although I read this book just last year, it was a delight to read again. I think I was struck by different aspects of the book the second time around. This time I realized just how much time Steinbeck spent describing his experiences of racism in the South. I imagine this caused some waves back in the early 1960's when the book was published, before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. But we should expect nothing less from Steinbeck, the champion of the oppressed, and chronicler of the lives of the most marginalized in American society. Steinbeck attempted to discover what an American is, and debates whether he succeeded. I think that in many ways this short volume does reveal a lot of what America is - including our flaws. I love that his favorite state was Montana, a place I haven't visited. I know two people from Montana and they are unique in their ways, and some of my favorite people. Steinbeck put Montana on my "must visit" list. He skims over many regions with little to say, and some readers are unhappy about this. However, the genius of this book are this things he gets right. In a couple of paragraphs, as he describes the encroaching decay of downtown Seattle, he describes the cycle of urban decay (I'd argue in many ways deliberate), suburban sprawl, and the redevelopment of urban centers with frightening accuracy. And he did this 50 years ago! I got my copy of the book from the library. With its library binding, the cover was in good shape but the innards were well-read, and many pages torn. I had to wait 10 days for a copy although there were several available. I didn't mind the wait nor the condition of the book because they told me that more than 50 years after publication, this book is still widely read. Yes, it may be required on high school reading lists, but I believe it deserves to be a classic.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    REALLY enjoyed this eventful journey thru 40 States with Mr. Steinbeck and his dog Charley. The adventure begins in September 1960 with Hurricane Donna before he even leaves home and ends with a historic snowstorm, but everything in the middle is pretty darn good too!The story is written with humor, but with a profound sadness to it (perhaps due to Mr. Steinbeck's declining health) and whether the novel is truly fact or just fiction is unimportant to me as I found it an insightful and entertaining ride during a tumtoo!The REALLY enjoyed this eventful journey thru 40 States with Mr. Steinbeck and his dog Charley. The adventure begins in September 1960 with Hurricane Donna before he even leaves home and ends with a historic snowstorm, but everything in the middle is pretty darn good too!The story is written with humor, but with a profound sadness to it (perhaps due to Mr. Steinbeck's declining health) and whether the novel is truly fact or just fiction is unimportant to me as I found it an insightful and entertaining ride during a tumultuous time in America.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    What is there not to love about a travelogue featuring John Steinbeck and his French poodle Charley? Look at them, they're best friends: And check out the awesome Rocinante (named after Don Quixote's horse), a custom-made camper truck that carried them around America: This is the route th What is there not to love about a travelogue featuring John Steinbeck and his French poodle Charley? Look at them, they're best friends: And check out the awesome Rocinante (named after Don Quixote's horse), a custom-made camper truck that carried them around America: This is the route they took that I'd love to retrace someday:

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jon(athan) Nakapalau

    How often I have wished to do this: just get on the road and head off for destinations unknown. Searching for America John Steinbeck also finds out more about himself - via the intersection of "Examined Life" avenue and "Socratic" lane.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch, When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. I liked the idea that inspired this book: John Steinbeck, great American writer, decides to set off on a cross country exploration of America, a country he became accl When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch, When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. I liked the idea that inspired this book: John Steinbeck, great American writer, decides to set off on a cross country exploration of America, a country he became acclaimed for writing about after fearing he has lost touch with his roots. So he sets out with his faithful poodle Charley to rediscover America. He decides that his quest will eschew the big cities of America. But New York is no more America than Paris is France or London is England. Thus I discovered that I did not know my own country. I, an American writer, writing about America, was working form memory, and memory is at best a faulty, warpy reservoir. I had not hard the speech of America, smelled the grass and trees and sewage, seen its hills and water, its color and quality of light. I knew the changes only from books and newspapers. But more than this, I had not felt the country for twenty-five years. In short, I was writing of something I did not know about, and it seems to me that in a so-called writer this is criminal. So this titan of American literature sets out in the fall of 1960 to rediscover America. He relates his travels both through his observations of the countryside and society ("The rivers were full of logs, bank to bank for miles, waiting their turn at the abattoir to give their woody hearts so that the bulwarks of our civilization such as Time magazine and the Daily News can survive, to defend us against ignorance.") as well as through the interactions he has with the people he meets ("...Why I remember when people took everything out on Mr. Roosevelt. Andy Larsen got red in the face about Roosevelt one time when his hens got the croup. Yes, sir," he said with growing enthusiasm, "those Russians got quite a load to carry. Man has a fight with his wife, he belts the Russians." "Maybe everyone needs Russians. I'll bet even in Russia they need Russians. Maybe they call it Americans."). Steinbeck's travels took him all across America: But as a whole this book felt a bit hollow to me. The meat of this book was Steinbeck's ruminations on such things as memory, the loss of regional dialects ("I can remember a time when I could almost pinpoint a man's place of origin by his speech. that is growing more difficult now and will in some foreseeable future become impossible. It is a rare house or building that is not rigged with spiky combers of the air. Radio and television speech becomes standardized, perhaps better English than we have ever used. Just as our bread, mixed and baked, packaged and sold without benefit of accident of human faility, is uniformly good and uniformly tasteless, so will our speech become one speech."), the future promise of mobile homes (I kid you not), and very little of hearing from the citizens he comes across. And even then the conversations he relates were more composites of conversations he had then actual, word for word, transcriptions of reality. This book struck me as a vehicle for Steinbeck to reflect on what he experienced and how it affected him instead of relaying the facts of his journey. And that is fine, the man is a novelist, not a stenographer. But I felt this choice but him front and center instead of the America he ostensibly set out to discover. What should have been the core of the book was small and diminished, more an afterthought than a quest. But Steinbeck does have a wonderful way of putting things and sharing his observations of the country or countryside: As I was not prepared for the Missouri boundary, so I was not prepared for the Bad Lands. They deserve this name. They are the world of an evil child. Such a place the Fallen Angels might have built as a spite to Heaven, dry and sharp, desolate and dangerous, and for me filled with foreboding. A sense comes from it that it does not like or welcome humans. ~~~ Beyond my failings as a racist, I knew I was not wanted in the South. When people are engaged in something they are not proud of, they do not welcome witnesses. In fact, they come to believe the witness causes the trouble. ~~~ The place of my origin had changed, and having gone away I had not changed with it. In my memory it stood as it once did and its outward appearance confused and angered me...Tom Wolf was right. You can't go home again because home has ceased to exist except in the mothballs of memory. I think the most interesting part of his journey was when he traveled through the South. Specifically New Orleans, where Steinbeck traveled to witness The Cheerleaders, a repugnant group of people as I have ever read about. These were a group of women who would hurl invective and racial slurs at very young African-American children who were desegregating New Orleans schools: They wanted to be admired. They simpered in happy, almost innocent triumph when they were applauded. Theirs was the demented cruelty of egocentric children, and somehow this made their insensate beastliness much more heart-breaking. These were not mothers, not even women. they were crazy actors playing to a crazy audience. His entire experience with the South was somewhat interesting and probably the only part of the book that maintained cohesion throughout the section. Generally though the book was meandering and never really fulfilled the promise of the premise in my opinion. The wiritng did, however, make me more interested in checking out his novels (of which I have not read any).

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    You know how the heroes of westerns and comic books and adventures are always good men? My dad likes that kind of story where the moral is, "nothing is better than a good man!" He is the type that thinks a "man" just lives the best way he can! He loves legends and spooky tales and always made himself the hero. He told us, my friends and me, that he once saved his whole platoon by jumping on a grenade, and we believed him, though he never served in the military. So how can I not give five stars t You know how the heroes of westerns and comic books and adventures are always good men? My dad likes that kind of story where the moral is, "nothing is better than a good man!" He is the type that thinks a "man" just lives the best way he can! He loves legends and spooky tales and always made himself the hero. He told us, my friends and me, that he once saved his whole platoon by jumping on a grenade, and we believed him, though he never served in the military. So how can I not give five stars to the memoir that includes Steinbeck's own words, "There's nothing better than a good man." How, goodreaders? And I finished reading it while being driven home from my dad's brother's funeral. I found out family secrets on that trip, like I always do, but despite the tragedy list that has stacked up in that family, my dad is under the impression that his life has been pretty easy and that most people are good and that god provides if you work hard. And Steinbeck has this optimism (though it's admittedly more guarded and intelligent), and we don't just have to infer that through his characters. In this book, it's himself! This book may cause some to get a jolt of wanderlust, but I felt a little of the opposite when he went back to his hometown of Monterey on the trip, and sat in a bar with his aging amigos and tried to convince them that you can't go home. Is that true? If you can't go home, then I kind of don't want to leave. Right now I wish I could have lived a while back and could somehow marry John Steinbeck, but this seems weird to mention after talking about my dad so much. Don't get all Freudian interprety, please. For now, I'll just keep reading, reading, reading his books. Next is Grapes of Wrath.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Filled by a desire to see his country one more time, John Steinbeck has a truck modified to be a camper. Named Rocinante, after Don Quixote's horse, and equipping it with guns, books and other essential items, not forgetting Charley his dog, he sets off on his journey. His 10,000 mile journey takes him on a circular route around the country, starting in the north east, he travels across to the Pacific, down to California, along to Texas and the deep south and back up to New York. On h Filled by a desire to see his country one more time, John Steinbeck has a truck modified to be a camper. Named Rocinante, after Don Quixote's horse, and equipping it with guns, books and other essential items, not forgetting Charley his dog, he sets off on his journey. His 10,000 mile journey takes him on a circular route around the country, starting in the north east, he travels across to the Pacific, down to California, along to Texas and the deep south and back up to New York. On his trip he writes about the things that he see, and the people he encounters. All the while he sees with the eye of an author, noting where those parts of the country still held to long developed habits and other parts that had changed since his last visit. But mostly he wanted to immerse himself in his country once again. I really enjoyed reading this book. Even though it is thought that the some of the conversations that he recounts were either fictionalised, or a certain amount of licence was exercised in their creation, it could also be that he wanted to protect the identity of those folks. The moment when he travels, America is on the cusp of immense social change, desegregation in the deep south is one of the events he documents, and in his writing you sense this. But what mostly comes across is a man seeing for the last time the country he loves deeply, meeting its people and immersing himself in it. I printed once more on my eyes, south, west, and north, and then we hurried away from the permanent and changeless past where my mother is always shooting a wildcat and my father is always burning his name with his love.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    In literary criticism the critic has no choice but to make over the victim of his attention into something the size and shape of himself. This little volume must rank as one of the great American travel books—though I am not quite sure what that means. Travel literature, by its nature, finds itself in a paradoxical position: to search for truth by becoming briefly acquainted with a wide and disconnected series of experiences. Steinbeck addresses this in his opening salvo: “So it was I decided to look a In literary criticism the critic has no choice but to make over the victim of his attention into something the size and shape of himself. This little volume must rank as one of the great American travel books—though I am not quite sure what that means. Travel literature, by its nature, finds itself in a paradoxical position: to search for truth by becoming briefly acquainted with a wide and disconnected series of experiences. Steinbeck addresses this in his opening salvo: “So it was I decided to look again, to try to rediscover this monster land. Otherwise, in writing, I could not tell the small diagnostic truths which are the foundations of the large truth.” But the riddle is to figure out which truths are diagnostic and which distractions. Steinbeck seems later to have thrown up his hands in despair at the prospect, as he retreats into subjectivism: “I feel that there are too many realities. What I set down here is true until someone else passes that way and rearranges the world in his own style.” Yet if the cliché is true, and the journey is more important than the destination, then Steinbeck’s search for America is more important than what he finds. That sounds reassuring, at least. In any case, the search is a pleasure to read. Steinbeck presents himself as an aging everyman, puttering about with his poodle and his camper, making small-talk with locals, sampling diner breakfasts, and getting lost on country roads. Very little of consequence happens; nothing much is discovered that the fifty-eight year old author did not already know; and it is lovely to read about. True, Steinbeck could, and did, narrate a fly buzzing around a dirty kitchen and turn it into poetry; but his writerly skill is not the only virtue this book possesses. The book’s most consistent note is that of resigned obsolescence. Steinbeck looks upon the country—one which he once knew so deeply that he created its most representative novels—and finds it unfamiliar. He is past his prime, and knows it; and, more impressively, accepts it. He was writing in the wake of On the Road, another iconic travel book; and though Steinbeck’s work is far more mature and, I think, much better written, it nevertheless fails to capture the ethos of the time in the way Kerouac or, indeed, the younger Steinbeck was able to do. I am not saying this in criticism, but in admiration, since Steinbeck still managed to create a classic book. Like any great artist, he found the great universal in his tiny particular; and he transformed his sense of being out of touch into a great sighing comment on his changing country. Now, of course much of this book isn’t true. All novelists are born and bred liars. But it sounds true enough, and that is all I want from a travel book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Seana

    Man, this book came so exactly at the right time in my life. I think I was about thirteen or fourteen. I went back to the ancestral home in Illinois, and my cousins were getting rid of some books. One of them was Travels With Charley. I read it while we were driving back home. I think I made my family's life a living hell by comparing them constantly to Steinbeck and Charlie's trip across the country. Oh, well. Sometimes the families of readers have to suffer.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Gosh, there are so many good reviews here to read, why should I add my two cents? While I was reading it, I found it interesting, insightful, humorous and sad. Now that is a wide range of emotions captured in a small book. A question that always arises is: how much of this is true and how much is imagined? There is a simple answer to this. Steinbeck points out that no two people will see the same event with the same eyes. What you see depends upon who you are. This is what Steinbeck saw and experienced, Gosh, there are so many good reviews here to read, why should I add my two cents? While I was reading it, I found it interesting, insightful, humorous and sad. Now that is a wide range of emotions captured in a small book. A question that always arises is: how much of this is true and how much is imagined? There is a simple answer to this. Steinbeck points out that no two people will see the same event with the same eyes. What you see depends upon who you are. This is what Steinbeck saw and experienced, and he may even have juggled the facts to fit what he wanted to have said by this book. It is said that his wife he was then married to, Elaine, was there with him for much of the trip. It was not just a trip shared by a man of 58 with his "blue" French Poodle, Charley. They were a threesome. In 1960 he traveled 10,000 miles in his converted truck, which he fondly named Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse, across America from Sag Harbor, N.Y., to the West Coast and back to find out who were these Americans that he peopled his novels with. Who were they today, and by that I mean 1960? What makes an American an American? Is there something that binds the New Englanders with those of the Midwest and Texans and those of the Deep South? And how are people from these different areas different? He is curious about all of this and about what he values in life, be it a dog, a sparkling brook with the rings of a trout's last jump or a good drink. He sees the the garbage cluttering the ever-expanding cities and small streams. He looks at the climate of racial unrest that was building. Primarily he looks at and tries to talk to the people he meets, although he was lucky if he got even a few "yeps" out of New Englanders in the early hours. Mobile homes, and the beauty of Montana, the dry desert, a kind vet, and a bad one - they are all here. But do remember that what you see is through Steinbeck's eyes. Steinbeck died eight years later from a heart attack. I like Steinbeck's manner of expressing himself, but I also appreciate his insights, his views and what he is thinking about. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Peter Marinker. Very well done! Now I am going to do something naughty. I have already begun listening to Songdogs, written by Colum McCann and narrated by Paul Nugent. One shouldn't compare writing skills, but in both books a picture is drawn of a man standing there in his Wellingtons, and in both there is that stream cluttered with garbage. McCann's depiction just sings. It is gorgeous. It is stupendous. How can I not make a comparison when the same "picture" is there in both books, and yet they are not at all the same, and I know which one I prefer? I am still giving “Charley” four stars because while I was reading it I really liked it!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Luís C.

    When I chose this title of Steinbeck to the bookstore, I did not knew exactly what I expect, not knowing the title. But I imagined a journey across a large part of United States, many meetings and a kind of report on the 1960's America. Somewhat a journalist's book. In fact over the eleven weeks Steinbeck toured the USA. If there are meetings, often over a bottle, they do not learn much about the region in which they take place. Except perhaps in the South. Let us recall that he'd voyaged in 196 When I chose this title of Steinbeck to the bookstore, I did not knew exactly what I expect, not knowing the title. But I imagined a journey across a large part of United States, many meetings and a kind of report on the 1960's America. Somewhat a journalist's book. In fact over the eleven weeks Steinbeck toured the USA. If there are meetings, often over a bottle, they do not learn much about the region in which they take place. Except perhaps in the South. Let us recall that he'd voyaged in 1960. To have an image of America is better another guide. I'm also one who waits his turn. But to better understand Steinbeck this book is perfect. Yes, Steinbeck believes that when traveling on highways the eye riveted on maps, we can see the landscape less and being caught in a tide of cars is more challenging than pleasant. Yes it is that the food prepared by himself from fresh products has more flavor than cellophane. An old reactionary, this one. Or someone who appreciates that life taste.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Connie G

    John Steinbeck took a road trip around the United States in the fall of 1960 "to try to rediscover this monster land." He bought a pick-up truck with a camper top, and named it Rocinante (after Don Quixote's horse). Charley, an older large French poodle, was Steinbeck's traveling companion. Charley served as an ice-breaker, making it easier for Steinbeck to meet strangers. Steinbeck had a chronic illness at the time of his trip, and Charley had his own set of veterinary problems, but they offere John Steinbeck took a road trip around the United States in the fall of 1960 "to try to rediscover this monster land." He bought a pick-up truck with a camper top, and named it Rocinante (after Don Quixote's horse). Charley, an older large French poodle, was Steinbeck's traveling companion. Charley served as an ice-breaker, making it easier for Steinbeck to meet strangers. Steinbeck had a chronic illness at the time of his trip, and Charley had his own set of veterinary problems, but they offered emotional support to each other. Charley also added some humor to the story, such as when he turned into a vicious barking beast when he spotted and smelled the bears in Yellowstone Park. Steinbeck tried to talk to the "everyman" during his journey--farmers, migrant workers, and waitresses--to take the pulse of the country. Although Steinbeck has associated with many famous people, he has never forgotten his humble roots as a dock worker. As one who has lived through the 1960s, I felt that he gave a true sense of the era. He traveled through the Northeast, then took a northern route to the west coast, then headed home by taking a southern route eastward. The most awe-inspiring stop on his journey was at a forest of majestic redwoods. The most upsetting incident was in New Orleans where a group of women (called the Cheerleaders) shouted racist comments at small black children walking to their recently integrated school. His visit to a bar in his hometown in California showed that you really can't go home again after an absence of many years--people change and the town changes. Steinbeck got lost quite often during his trip. He seemed to suggest that America was also getting lost as the population moved from the country to the city to work in industry. He was concerned about damage to the environment as factories, garbage dumps, and interstate highways ringed the cities. There has been some controversy about the accuracy of Steinbeck's tale, especially in journalist Bill steigerwald's book, "Dogging Steinbeck". Steinbeck did not camp out as often as his book relates, his wife flew out to meet him quite often during the trip, and his conversations with people seem to often be composites of several people. That really did not bother me since I find that most travel books give the flavor of a location, and are not a day-to-day diary. I can also understand why Steinbeck would be spending many nights in motels, considering his poor health. I enjoyed the hours I spent with Steinbeck and Charley on the road.

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