Travels with Charley: 07/03/06
This afternoon I finished reading John Steinbeck's memoir of a trip around the contintental United States, Travels with Charley. I have a rather conflicted view of Steinbeck. I respect him as a fellow Californian but I am not a devout fan of his books. His stories tend to get preachy or the presentation of the themes is too heavy handed.
Travels with Charley as a non-fiction allowed Steinbeck greater freedom to cover a variety of topics in a variety of styles. It was refreshing to read his thoughts on the politics and happenings during the time of his trip. He covers light hearted topics like the tacitern nature of the typical New Englander to the more serious ones like the early days of desegregation.
Here is my BookCrossing review:
Steinbeck may have been living on Long Island at the end of his life but he was still a Californian through and through. His travelogue, Travels with Charley of a trip around the continental United States in 1960, is written from a recognizable Californian perspective. Take for example his description of his custom built truck and camper shell which he dubs "Rocinante" and has the name painted in gothic lettering on the sides of the truck. Cars and trucks (especially) are still decorated with names in such a fashion.
While Steinbeck did cover most of the continental states in the course of his trip, he doesn't provide a blow-by-blow itinerary. Instead he lets the events of the trip inspire his writing. Sometimes he writes a faithful description of a place he has seen or a person he has met. Other time he writes an essay on a politics, or economics, or some other topic inspired by that point in the trip.
There are a couple chapters that focus on some medical problems that Charley the dog (a French poodle) suffered over the course of the trip. These chapters reminded me I & Claudius, a travelogue written by Clare de Vries about her trip across the United States with her cat. What is it about people traveling with their pets?
Now that I'm done, I'll be passing this book along to another BookCrosser. I owe it as a book relay offer.