Travels With Charley
I picked up this book by chance. You know the scenario at the bookstore: eyes caressing the books on the shelves like loaves of fresh bread while slightly salivating at the possibilities of delight in their contents. Strolling dreamily. I was Christmas shopping for a particular book, and about to take a trip and needed a book of my own for the airplane. The visual "Steinbeck," along with a picture with a PWD type dog were sitting on the shelf staring at me like the Geico dollars. "I am for you, " it called.
This book is thoughtful, middleaged version of Kerouac's "On The Road." In addition to the marvelous writing, I found it fascinating to read about someone rediscovering a changed, more modern America - in 1960! His view was fresh, seing the plastic infused hotels and roadside diners with disdain of their anitseptic modernism. Same with the self serve (read oderless and tasteless) food kiosk in motels. Interstate highways were new. Mr. Steinbeck took his trip about the time I was born, so I was reading my unremembered history through the eyes of a veteran observer. Here is his description of autumn leaves as he drove into New Hampshire: "The climate changed quickly to cold and the trees burst into color, the reds and yellows you can't believe. It isn't only color but a glowing, as though the leaves gobbled the light of the autumn sun and then released it slowly. There's a quality of fire in these colors."
His writing is unpretentious, but deep, thoughtful and so observant of the characters and scenery he encounters. John Steinbeck's writings are most often the stuff of high school English classes - but now I can't wait to revisit or discover his other jewels.