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Travels with Charley in Search of America Paperback – January 31, 1980

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Editorial Reviews


“Pure delight, a pungent potpourri of places and people interspersed with bittersweet essays on everything from the emotional difficulties of growing old to the reasons why giant sequoias arouse such awe.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Profound, sympathetic, often angry . . . an honest moving book by one of our great writers.” —The San Francisco Examiner

“This is superior Steinbeck—a muscular, evocative report of a journey of rediscovery.” —John Barkham, Saturday Review Syndicate

“The eager, sensuous pages in which he writes about what he found and whom he encountered frame a picture of our human nature in the twentieth century which will not soon be surpassed.” —Edward Weeks, The Atlantic Monthly

About the Author

JOHN STEINBECK (1902-1968) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962. Born in California, he worked at a series of odd jobs and attended Stanford University before beginning his writing career. Among his classic works are Of Mice and Men, The Red Pony, The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, and Cannery Row.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (January 31, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140053204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140053203
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (686 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Steinbeck (1902-1968), winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, achieved popular success in 1935 when he published Tortilla Flat. He went on to write more than twenty-five novels, including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

176 of 181 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have read somewhere that what makes a novel a "classic" is that it must contain some fundamental truths that can withstand changing fads, cultures and eras. I know that "Travels with Charley" is not a novel but a memoir. However, this memoir contains so much truth that it deserves--and has acheived--almost instant "classic" status.
It is about John Steinbeck's trip across America. He begins in New York, drives up through Maine, across the midwest, through Montana to Washington, down the Pacific Coast, through Texas and finally through the American southeast. He was 58 when he took this trip, and his only companions were his loyal dog Charley and trailer Rocinante. I appreciated the way that Steinbeck respected Charley, gave him human characteristics, and looked for Charley's observations on mankind as well as his own.
I have heard this memoir described as an "angry" book, but I think this only describes a small portion of Steinbeck's experiences on the road. Steinbeck was certainly troubled by certain things--chief among them the horrifying "witches sabbath" that occurred in New Orleans. He also looked with sadness upon the "progress" that has diminished our cultural identities and ravaged our beautiful land. However, he was wise enough to know that older people often cling to the past simply because it is familiar, but not because it was superior or even good. He recognized that trait in himself and challenged it.
Some individual passages in this book were so wise I read them several times to try to appreciate the full extent of his wisdom. For example, the passage where Steinbeck remarks that too many older people turn in their exciting lives for healthy and safe ones.
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207 of 225 people found the following review helpful By J. S. Kaminski on May 1, 2002
Format: Paperback
In 1960 John Steinbeck decided to reacquaint himself with America after being away because, in his own words, "I've lost the flavor and taste and sound of it. I'm going to learn about my own country." So he set out on a 3+ month journey with his dog to do just that. Along the way, he met people and made conversation, observed the state of the country, and let his mind wander as he made his journey. Then he returned to his mobile cabin at night and recorded the day's events. These journal entries became "Travels with Charley."
Overall, Steinbeck seems to paint a pretty picture. While driving through New England in the fall, he is taken with the brilliant foliage on display. He is much impressed with Wisconsin, and says about Montana, "I am in love. For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection, but with Montana it is love." Later, Steinbeck also speaks glowingly of the California Redwoods.
Steinbeck also has nice things to say about the American people - sometimes. He notes that midwesterners are openly friendly, and again praises Montana, for its inhabitants "had undertake the passing art of neighborliness." However, interspersed throughout his journey, Steinbeck encounters many things which are not so delightful. In fact, some were quite upsetting. He talks of waste - "American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash" - and of miserable people - "(some people) can drain off energy and joy, can suck pleasure dry and get no sustenance from it. (They) spread a grayness in the air about them." (This was his opinion of a waitress Steinbeck had just met in Maine.) And the waitress wasn't the only one.
Along his journey, he met many close-minded, opinionated, bigoted and rascist Americans, and it made for depressing reading.
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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful By Edward Bosnar on March 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
It's amazing how relevant Steinbeck's observations of America are forty years after he wrote this book. In fact, much of what he says seems to apply even more now than when he first wrote it, such as when he observes: "the mountain of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use. In this, if in no other way, we can see the wild and wreckless exuberance of our production, and waste seems to be the index." In a similar vein, he wonders, when considering the expansion of large cities, "why progress looks so much like destruction." Steinbeck's sarcasm also comes to the surface when he notes some of the many odd habits and leisure activities of Americans, such as antique-hunting in omnipresent antique shops, which he felt were "bulging with authentic and attested trash from an earlier time." He was also quite impressed with the country's intrepid hunters, to whom he feared his poodle Charley would look like a buck deer. After spending an evening in Maine with some migrant farms workers from Quebec, he expressed (rather vainly, in retrospect) his hope that the country would not some day be overwhelmed "by people not too proud or too lazy or too soft to bend to the earth and pick up the things we eat." Far from being simply critical though, what comes out of this book is Steinbeck's great love for the country. His view that the "American identity is an exact and provable thing" still rings true today. "Travels with Charley" is not just classic travel literature, it is also a very readable and informative set of observations on America in the mid-20th century and beyond.
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