Publisher/Year: Penguin Classics--first published in 1962
How I got this: Used book store love!
Why I read this: Um, clearly you don't know me. I'm travelogue obsessed.
Rating: 4.5 stars. Minus a half star because there were some slow parts for me.
I cannot help but read travelogues in the summer. I feel as though if I can't physically be traveling then I should probably be at least living vicariously through another traveler. I saw this at the used bookstore and figured I should give it a go even though he was "just traveling around America." The thing you have to realize about my wanderlust: It's always for everywhere outside the US. My own wanderlust has me wishing for all these exotic places and John Steinbeck took his crafty little hands and plucked me from various places around the globe and plopped me right back into my own backyard to show me that there are many places in America worthy of seeing. I've never wanted to explore America so much as I do after reading this fine travelogue.
And so begins my journey through America with John Steinbeck and his dog Charley. John Steinbeck, feeling the years slipping by, decided to trek across America in search of the American spirit and to connect with the American people and the natural world. He sheds his name and comfortable life at home for his trailer and his dog Charley and wanders through the back roads to experience and get to know America in all her various manifestations.
Incredible writing, rich insights, and the American landscape fuse together in this non-fiction work of Steinbeck's. His writing is just as breathtaking as it is in his fiction works. I mean, how he can manage to fill these pages with beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence is beyond me. The imagery that Steinbeck provides is an unparalleled experience as my senses are loaded with visions of mountains, the sounds of different American dialects, or the smell of the forests.
His insights into the American psyche and America in general are spot-on and are thought-provoking in their relevance. His disenchantment with certain American characteristics--consumerism, selfishness, lack of simplicity, rootlessness, the never ending race towards progress, the rise of a homogeneous nation- are things I think about as do many people. He mulls over these things weighing the good and the bad inherently in each. His conversations with people from state to state help give a "fly on the wall" view of ordinary American people. His reflections on current events are interesting for someone who is not familiar with the 60's.
Seeing America through the eyes of John Steinbeck was truly an experience and has taught me that there is plenty to see in my own country. You can't learn about a place and its people from somebody else, no matter how well they tell of it.
"I've always admired those reporters who can descend on an area, talk to key people, ask key questions, take samplings of opinions, and then set down an orderly report very much like a road map. I envy this technique and at the same time do not trust it as a mirror of reality. I feel that there are too many realities. What I set down here is true until someone else passes that way and rearranges the world in his own style." -page 60 of Travels with CharleyThank you, John Steinbeck, for lighting a fire beneath me to discover my country in all its beauty and in all its ugliness, to experience nature as well as humanity, and to take the time to think critically and learn what it means to be an American.
As for you, friends, have you discovered your own country lately? I'd love to hear about your experience with traveling around your own area. What have you discovered about your country and about yourself? I'm making it my mission to start exploring just the immediate areas around me.