This book feels like travelling. I particularly liked how the author conveys his increasing sense of paranoia after months of railway travel. The desc...moreThis book feels like travelling. I particularly liked how the author conveys his increasing sense of paranoia after months of railway travel. The descriptions of his trips through 1973 Vietnam and Soviet Russia were also fascinating.(less)
I almost didn't read this. I meant to, but then I read an article in the NY Times that questioned most of what happens in it. Being as I am notoriousl...moreI almost didn't read this. I meant to, but then I read an article in the NY Times that questioned most of what happens in it. Being as I am notoriously paranoid when it comes to non-fiction, I almost chickened out. But I'm glad I decided to leap into it, even though I don't easily forget that sort of dishonesty in non-fiction.
I think the main reason I came to terms with its being fake was because I'm pretty sure that, had I gone into it with no preconceived ideas whatsoever, I'd have picked up on the fictional aspects right away. It looks like the ambiance might be real, but the events and conversations look oddly... reconstructed. Anyway, it looks fake in the sense that My Family and Other Animals looks fake - a decorative retelling of real anecdotes, rather than plain invention. I felt like a tacit agreement between Mr. Steinbeck and myself - I wouldn't ask uncomfortable questions so he could offer the best he had to give me.
Actually, I'm surprised that people would be so nitpicky as to complain that Steinbeck couldn't have been in a particular place on a particular day. To me, time in this book looks a little bit suspended - not at all chronology material. It's not that any of this is actually redeeming - after all, why would you make such a big fuss about setting out to find "the real America" if you were going to invent most of it anyway? But I think I got it, so maybe he had a point.
The second reason I'm glad I read this book is that I have discovered what people mean by "Steinbeck dialogue". I had read only one Steinbeck before - an early, hardly canonical one, and I didn't like it. This book didn't exactly blow my socks off (still too paranoid for that), but it made me want to read a proper Steinbeck asap. And, considering the "staged" dialogues are what brought this about, that brings my already complicated relationship with Steinbeck to a whole new level of irony.