I re-visited this book with a more appreciative eye after a book club discussion. The book is more a travelling retrospective of two aging companions (Charley and his dog) as well as a
retrospective for me , looking back at America optimism and possibility of the '60's.
The Franco-American encounters and drinking songs were particularly nostalgic.
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"?
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.
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.
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.
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.
A must-read for any age.
left off on page 158 Montana.
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").
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.
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