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Travels with Charley in Search of America Paperback – January 31, 1980
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“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 Steinbecka 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, born in Salinas, California, in 1902, grew up in a fertile agricultural valley, about twenty-five miles from the Pacific Coast. Both the valley and the coast would serve as settings for some of his best fiction. In 1919 he went to Stanford University, where he intermittently enrolled in literature and writing courses until he left in 1925 without taking a degree. During the next five years he supported himself as a laborer and journalist in New York City, all the time working on his first novel, Cup of Gold (1929).
After marriage and a move to Pacific Grove, he published two California books, The Pastures of Heaven (1932) and To a God Unknown (1933), and worked on short stories later collected in The Long Valley (1938). Popular success and financial security came only with Tortilla Flat (1935), stories about Monterey’s paisanos. A ceaseless experimenter throughout his career, Steinbeck changed courses regularly. Three powerful novels of the late 1930s focused on the California laboring class: In Dubious Battle (1936), Of Mice and Men (1937), and the book considered by many his finest, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). The Grapes of Wrath won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.
Early in the 1940s, Steinbeck became a filmmaker with The Forgotten Village (1941) and a serious student of marine biology with Sea of Cortez (1941). He devoted his services to the war, writing Bombs Away (1942) and the controversial play-novelette The Moon is Down (1942). Cannery Row (1945), The Wayward Bus (1948), another experimental drama, Burning Bright (1950), and The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951) preceded publication of the monumental East of Eden (1952), an ambitious saga of the Salinas Valley and his own family’s history.
The last decades of his life were spent in New York City and Sag Harbor with his third wife, with whom he traveled widely. Later books include Sweet Thursday (1954), The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication (1957), Once There Was a War (1958), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962), America and Americans (1966), and the posthumously published Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters (1969), Viva Zapata! (1975), The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights (1976), and Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath (1989).
Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1962, and, in 1964, he was presented with the United States Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Steinbeck died in New York in 1968. Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
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First, I am no self-proclaimed book reviewer, like a lot claim to be. I am just an avid reader that has particular tastes. Steinbeck is one of my all-time favorite writers and "Travels With Charley" did not dissappoint. What I was left with is wanting more, though!
"Travels with Charley" is a story about Steinbeck's trip around the country with his dog, Charley. Steinbeck does a wonderful job of detailing the trip to include his thoughts on the people in various areas of the country, how the country has changed since the technological revolution...and what Charley thinks about the whole deal.
This book began with a foreword that eventually was so tedious that I had to ignore it. If there's one thing I cannot stand with a lot of these classics is a foreword from some "alleged professional" explain what the book is all about. I say, "Let me read it first and make my own judgements!". And I don't appreciate forewords that give away the story (especially in their perspective) before I have a chance to read it.
After skipping the long-winded foreword, I read the book and had trouble putting it down. Steinbecks use of the English language is incredible and he can really paint a picture in this reader's mind. With that said, I felt the story should have told so much more. It seemed as though many states visited were never discussed, which I would have loved to read his take on.
Towards the end this book became an inner look into Steinbeck's soul regarding racism. Not that it dampered the mood, but I felt like there should have been more discussed prior and after this section. It was almost as if he wanted to write more but something held him back.
After completing the novel I can say I truly enjoyed the read. If anything, it brought many memories of my great-grandparents and their travels back and forth from NY to Florida with their 1960's Airstream trailer!
4 Stars for a great read. Not 5 because it left me wanting more!