“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Travels with Charley" by John Steinback, Fifty Years Later

First published in 1962, John Steinback's "Travels with Charley" chronicles the author's automobile journey across the United States with his elderly french poodle Charley.  I read the low priced Bantam paperback edition (proud Goodwill purchase)  which was published in July, 1963. The book contains Steinback's impression of the diverse American landscape and people as he drove from state to state, not only to see but to understand the condition of the country he often wrote of in his novels.
The reader views America from John Steinback's wise, learned and subjective perspective.  At the age of fifty-eight, he described the substance of all journeys as different from other journeys; we think that we are taking a trip, but sometimes it is the trip that takes us to unexpected places. (4).

Steinback traveled from Long Island, New York, to Maine, through the Midwest into Montana, to California, Texas, and New Orleans in a truck attached to his trailer which he named Rocinante. Steinback expected to hear plenty of political discourse about the election between Nixon and Kennedy, witnessed the immoral verbal assault of six year old Ruby Bridges by adult white women, and experienced the negative and positive attributes of the Badlands.

What did he learn about America?  Well, you will have to read the book to find out that answer, but I do not think you will be disappointed.  Steinback won the Nobel prize for literature two years later for his body of work.

Rocinante is currently on display at the National Steinback Center in Salinas, California.  Steinback would probably get a kick out of it.  Get it?

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