Travels With Charley

Travels With Charley

In Search of America

Book - 1997
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An intimate journey across America, as told by one of its most beloved writers

In September 1960, John Steinbeck embarked on a journey across America. He felt that he might have lost touch with the country, with its speech, the smell of its grass and trees, its color and quality of light, the pulse of its people. To reassure himself, he set out on a voyage of rediscovery of the American identity, accompanied by a distinguished French poodle named Charley; and riding in a three-quarter-ton pickup truck named Rocinante.

His course took him through almost forty states: northward from Long Island to Mai≠ through the Midwest to Chicago; onward by way of Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana (with which he fell in love), and Idaho to Seattle, south to San Francisco and his birthplace, Salinas; eastward through the Mojave, New Mexico, Arizona, to the vast hospitality of Texas, to New Orleans and a shocking drama of desegregation; finally, on the last leg, through Alabama, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey to New York.

Travels with Charley in Search of America is an intimate look at one of America's most beloved writers in the later years of his life--a self-portrait of a man who never wrote an explicit autobiography. Written during a time of upheaval and racial tension in the South--which Steinbeck witnessed firsthand-- Travels with Charley is a stunning evocation of America on the eve of a tumultuous decade. This Penguin Classics edition includes an introduction by Jay Parini.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 1997, c1990.
ISBN: 9780140187410
0140187413
Characteristics: xxii, 210 p. ;,20 cm. --

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w
wyenotgo
Sep 16, 2017

This is a far different Steinbeck from the fellow who wrote "The Grapes of Wrath". Not a travelogue but a nostalgic retrospective on what America meant to him. And in its final pages, a lament when he found himself face-to-face with the agony of America finally beginning, painfully, bitterly, terrifyingly to deal with its heritage of shattered race relations.
The book was written in 1961, at the time of the Kennedy inauguration. As such, it depicts an America that had long been the envy of all the world (even the Soviets, through gritted teeth) and yet it was already a nation at war with itself, unable to come to terms with the lofty ideals expressed in its own founding documents. So what can we say about this book today, when much of America has turned its back on its early dreams? How does it tally with the sickening truth of America's failure to live up to those impossibly optimistic aspirations, a time when civil discourse has become impossible and no one knows any more what is truth? When what individuals choose to believe (or claim to believe) is all that matters and if facts presented do not suit one's purpose, alternative facts will do?
What journey might Steinbeck, or anyone else of his era undertake today "in search of America"?

p
patcarstensen
Jul 02, 2017

Unlike a lot of travel books, he doesn't write about the end of the trip when he was just finishing driving and no longer enjoying traveling. The writing about the South is so immediate.

r
Rowswell
Nov 01, 2016

I recently read this book as I was contemplating a cross-country trip, something I have done many times over the past 40 years. I thought I'd read it on the road as I was planning on driving the same route Seattle to Ohio (long story, but I ended up reading it while flying & deferred the road trip to the spring).

After 55+ years the story still resonates & especially his description of the yearning for adventure at the opening of the book & then at the end of the book how he no longer absorbed anything he saw as he only wanted to get home.

While (hopefully) the negative experiences in the South would no longer be encountered, much of the trip and storyline would be familiar to a modern traveller.

Well written, as Steinbeck always is, the book serves to illustrate the saying "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - "the more things change, the more it's the same thing".

This is a book for anyone with wanderlust. It will help reinforce that urge, or help recall memories of trips gone by.

TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 03, 2016

Part travelogue and part rant, Travels with Charley is a very conversational piece. It is strengthened by Steinbeck’s wit and insight. No matter what he is talking about, Steinbeck is able to pull his readers in and make them interested.

m
msemos
Jul 25, 2015

not great writing but I like it. his description of a school integration in Louisiana was wonderful. I am not sure that he ever found the American spirit, maybe there is none.

t
teemsum
May 31, 2015

A must-read for any age.

m
mahlysah
Apr 16, 2014

left off on page 158 Montana.

l
lukasevansherman
Dec 08, 2013

What's more American than a road trip? How about a road trip with your dog? Boom. A later Steinbeck book, this is one of his most beloved and least preachy. His novels can be undermined by polemics and clumsy writing, but this is among his easiest, most likable books, if you can get past the somewhat insufferable subtitle ("In Search of America").

b
banjodog
Jul 25, 2013

Read this book years ago and still love it. I hate to think what Steinbeck would think of Seattle now with our traffic and the exchange of our beautiful farm lands with strip malls.

n
negovdlp
Apr 12, 2013

I enjoyed this book, and found it very interesting to read about traveling in the US in the '60s. Having driven the states myself, it was fun to read the differences between doing it now and back in the day! I think I would have liked to have read less introspection, and more about the interactions he had with the people.

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TSCPL_ChrisB Jun 06, 2016

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.

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