Thursday, January 7, 2010

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.
 (Photo from Amazon)

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.


  1. hey jennifer! i had no idea that this was what this book was about. i've seen it here, there and almost everywhere. i have no rational reason for avoiding steinbeck but i always have. i love kerouac's on the road and if this is a 60's version or even close to it then i'm in!!!! i'm ordering it . . . . now!! thanks so much! steven

  2. This is one of my favorites by Steinbeck...and you have nailed unpretentious, honest and reflective...a very personal work by a great author!!! I loved it!!! And of course, what's not to love? Charley is simply charming!! This is a terrific review!!! ~Janine XO

  3. Steinbeck is my number one modern writer. He is thoughtful and in the moment. You never know he is a trained biologist, do you?

  4. I read THE GRAPES OF WRATH in University. I couldn't believe it. But having worked with a lot of poor people over the years, I can now. Steinbeck actually made work camp conditions sound better than they really were. Things are not all that much different today.

    And, for the record, Charlie was a poodle. From France.

  5. My all-time favorite book. I even have a Facebook page dedicated to it. You can check it out at:


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