Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Steinbeck Classics Circuit Tour: Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Reviewed by Connie

Published: 1962

It's about: In 1960, at the age of 58, John Steinbeck, instead of slowing down as his doctor recommended, decided he hadn't seen enough of the United States. So, he packed up a camper, kissed his wife good-bye, and set off with his poodle, Charley, to really see America. He traveled up the Northeast, across the upper Midwest, all the way to California, back through the Southwest, and finally through the South, encountering scenery and people and truck stops that embody each region of the nation, and he takes us along for the ride.

I thought:  I. Loved. This. Book. Which is interesting, because I haven't been sold on Steinbeck before. He's a unique writer (uh oh, Christina might get on me for that usage) in that he adopts a completely different writing style in every book he writes (at least that I've read). I loved Of Mice and Men, hated Grapes of Wrath, was mostly indifferent to The Pearl, and I absolutely adored Travels with Charley. Of all the writing styles I've read of his, this one far exceeds the rest. He seems to have dropped any notion of writing "literature" and instead written in his own voice, his own thoughts, his own life. And I loved it.

As an older man when he writes it, he has already formed many of his opinions about life, which are delivered to the reader in pithy sayings or amusing analogies, and quite oftentimes, I find that he was saying exactly what I think, only with much more intelligence, style, and humor. And the HUMOR! Parts of this book were hilarious. It was a joy to read from start to finish and really fed the inner traveler in me.

Verdict: Stick it on the shelf!

Reading Recommendations: If you have any ounce of a traveler in your blood, read this book.

Warnings: None.

Favorite excerpts:
"The best way to attract attention, help, and conversation is to be lost. A man who seeing his mother starving to death on a path kicks her in the stomach to clear the way, will cheerfully devote several hours of his time to giving wrong directions to a total stranger who claims to be lost."

"When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked."

What I'm reading next: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith