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Previous Monthly Reads > Travels With Charley: In Search of America

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message 1: by Sara (new)

Sara | 2357 comments Mod
This is the spoiler free thread for our February 2015 group read.


message 2: by Joanna (new)

Joanna Kelly (azeezee) | 16 comments I have had to order this from the book depository after searching 3 book shops with no luck. I'll get kicking with the quarterly read while I wait.


message 3: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments I requested this from my library but still no response. I've been having trouble with their website. I may "break down" and buy a new copy. There is an edition with illustrations that I think I would enjoy and my local bookstore has it.


message 4: by Sara (new)

Sara | 2357 comments Mod
Interesting Barbara. I got a old ancient copy from our local library system and it came in it a couple days after I requested it. I'm showing that they have a bunch of copies but also several holds. It seems to be on their list of "Reading List" books. I suspect it's required in the local school system.


message 5: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Sara wrote: "Interesting Barbara. I got a old ancient copy from our local library system and it came in it a couple days after I requested it. I'm showing that they have a bunch of copies but also several holds..."

Sigh. When I requested it I only saw a few copies - odd. I am going to try again.


message 6: by Allan (new)

Allan I'm just over half way through my audio reread and am thoroughly enjoying it. It'll be interesting to see how group members will respond to a non fiction read, given the fact that for as long as I remember, there have been fiction titles read for monthly and quarterly reads. I'll also be interested to see whether or not US based readers have a different reaction to the book that non US readers...


message 7: by Emma (new)

Emma Flanagan (emma89) I'm at about the same point as you Allan. I don't read much non fiction but I think even for those that do its unusual. It's not a biography or any other traditional form of non fiction. It seems to be more some philosophical musings on America. In terms of American vs non American views so far I've been struck by one thing, Steinbecks comments on accents. He felt that regional accents were disappearing. It's an interesting idea from an Irish perspective where despite some changes due to better education and the attempts of globalisation there are still huge variations in accents between counties and even parishes. It will be interesting to see if the Americans agree.

On a lighter note, while I know the dog is a poodle, I keep imagining him as a jack russell. Seems more fitting.


message 8: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Emma wrote: "I'm at about the same point as you Allan. I don't read much non fiction but I think even for those that do its unusual. It's not a biography or any other traditional form of non fiction. It seems t..."

I loved that aspect of this book. When I reread, I will pay attention to his observations. I love.love,love the various accents around the USA. Having gone to university in two cities with very strong accents - Pittsburgh and Boston- I became fascinated with the great variety.
Here's a funny article on Pittsburghese
http://www.post-gazette.com/life/life...
This video features a Pittsburgh accent - start in the middle to get the full on accent
http://dialectblog.com/2011/06/06/pit...


message 9: by Serf (new)

Serf Ok does anyone else find some of his descriptions funny? Just read through the part about hunting season and laughed my head off.


message 10: by Allan (new)

Allan Seraphina, Steinbeck's non fiction is noteable for its dry humour, and if you're like me, you'll find yourself chuckling throughout the book. I love his continual humanisation of Charlie and his traits.


message 11: by Louise (new)

Louise | 82 comments Seraphina, yes. He's really funny.
This is my first buy on my brand new kindle.


message 12: by Allan (new)

Allan Funnily enough, this was my first buy on my long forgotten Kindle as well-my other half tried to convert me to one when they first came out to stop the avalanche of books arriving on the doormat, but I never took to it. I have subsequently bought a physical copy of the book for my Steinbeck collection, and am currently listening to the audio version. I think it's the only book I have in all three formats...


message 13: by Serf (new)

Serf I would love to get his whole collection in physical format. They definitely are books you'd re read, (even though I've only read 2 so far)


message 14: by Allan (new)

Allan They're prohibitively expensive brand new, so I've relied on second hand copies of most of the books of his that I have. I just checked on my shelves, and I have 18 Steinbeck titles, though I've listened to a couple of others on audio. Still a few to buy though, and a few of those on my shelf to read.


message 15: by Emma (new)

Emma Flanagan (emma89) Surely it depends on what editions your buying. The penguin versions look to be the standard price you'd expect.


message 16: by Allan (new)

Allan The paperbacks are more expensive than your standard paperback in rrp. For example, 'The Wayward Bus' retails at £12.99 for a standard paperback, a price that was set in 2001. I've no idea why. Perhaps publishers cashing in on the education market?

The Wayward Bus (Penguin Modern Classics) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/014118611...

There are loads of old editions around though, so it's not that big of an issue for me.


message 17: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Allan wrote: "The paperbacks are more expensive than your standard paperback in rrp. For example, 'The Wayward Bus' retails at £12.99 for a standard paperback, a price that was set in 2001. I've no idea why. Per..."

I think you are right - my copy is finally available at the library. I couldn't find a decent priced used copy. Steinbeck novels are hard to come by at a bargain price. Allan, I think you may have convinced me to buy a copy of this. I have held on to my East of Eden. It's a lovely edition.

Poodles, we should remember, are one of the most intelligent breeds.


message 18: by [deleted user] (new)

Barbara wrote: Poodles, we should remember, are one of the most intelligent breeds

A miniature poodle was our family dog during my childhood and was was bright and a fun companion for a child. Also, my late father-in-law saw standard poodles worked in Germany. They were taken to collect game on shoots. So that each owner could tell which was their dog they tied a piece of cloth to the dog's tail. So, those pompoms on the end of their tails had a purpose as they stopped the talisman falling off!


message 19: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Theresa wrote: "Barbara wrote: Poodles, we should remember, are one of the most intelligent breeds

A miniature poodle was our family dog during my childhood and was was bright and a fun companion for a child. Als..."


A close friend got a miniature at a shelter last summer and they just got a second one:) She and her husband never knew how loveable these dogs can be. She almost has me sold on one though I am a person who has always preferred medium to larger dogs. My sister has 2 Siberian Huskies and then adopted a neglected Samoyed. The dogs lived in Massachusetts so were happy in the colder climate. This mid-Atlantic climate is not the best for sled dogs.


message 20: by Allan (new)

Allan So I finished the book this afternoon, and, like before, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As has already been discussed, Steinbeck's dry wit is apparent throughout, though he can be serious when he needs to be, as the Part 4 of the book illustrates. I wasn't sure how the race aspect was going to pan out, and at times I found the language used a little uncomfortable, but, given the time it was published, I think that Steinbeck comes out of it favourably.

As for Charley, it was actually the cover of the Penguin Classic which features him prominently that originally drew me to the book, and in turn to Steinbeck, so I have a lot to thank him for, but I loved the way Steinbeck portrayed their interactions, and indeed the dog's interaction with others-the encounter with the giant redwood was a particular favourite for me.

What do our US members feel about his assertion about the country having a national identity ahead of a regional one in the way that we do in Europe? Does that still hold true?


message 21: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Allan wrote: "So I finished the book this afternoon, and, like before, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As has already been discussed, Steinbeck's dry wit is apparent throughout, though he can be serious when he needs..."


I will keep that in mind during my second reading. But my initial response would be to say the national identity was strongly pushed at least from Teddy Roosevelt's time going forward. With the Civil War and large numbers of immigrants entering at the beginning of the 20th century, one can see why the idea of asserting and indeed establishing a national identity was paramount.
I'd say now more than ever regional identities are touted. You only have to watch NCIS New Orleans, whose cast is made up of non-natives - at least, Scott Bakula, playing a fake New Orleanian. So they really poor on the local culture - food, music, and perhaps a bit of exaggeration. A bit (and only a little) more authentic is the new comedy The McCarthy's. It is set in an unnamed Boston neighborhood(but appears to be South Boston/Dorchester). There are 4 adult children - all live adjacent to the parents, and one son is gay. The father is played by a New Yorker by birth so he does "OK" sounding kindof Boston. Two sons are played by local actors so their accents are pretty spot on but a bit exaggerated. The gay son doesn't have a local accent but that may be a stereotype - gay men have their "own" way of talking. It is rumored to be cancelled which isn't surprising as it is so chock full of stereotypes I imagine Bostonians would hate it and outsiders wouldn't get the parts that are actually kind of funny.
I have gotten way off point perhaps.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Interesting nonetheless.


message 23: by Emma (new)

Emma Flanagan (emma89) I've just finished this. It was interesting particularly as a non American. My mental map of America is pretty much east coast (NY, Boston), west coast (San Francisco, LA) and then South (Texas). What exists in between is basically a blank other then Chicago. I'd have heard of the middle states but I've no concept of them.

The assertion of a regional identity was interesting. Again while I'd be aware of the strong accents associated with the big cities like NY or Boston and the southern accent I wouldn't be tuned in to other regional accents. Outside of America there is the perception that there isn't strong regional accents with the exceptions of the ones I've mentioned. Certainly not in the way there would be in Ireland or UK where if you drive 5 mins down the road you could find a totally different accent.

The final section in the south was also interesting given it was written just as things were kicking off with little idea of how they would play out. It's probably as close to an in the moment reflection on things as you can get in a book.


message 24: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Liadagh wrote: "I have finally begun reading this book. It's been a while since I've read Steinbeck, I have previously read his short novels and I have always been curious about 'Travels with Charley' but never ma..."

I am just about 30 pages in and enjoying my second reading.


message 25: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Started this today and I'd just like to mention how aesthetically pleasing the book is to me. Besides the lovely cover anyway, they have also frayed the edges of the pages so that it looks authentic and worn. Love it


message 26: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments I finally got a copy from the library today. I've been waiting and waiting for it. Who knew it would be this popular?

Emma, there are a lot of strong regional accents. Minnesota has a strong one probably due to its heavy Scandinavian population. The Dakotas also have one. If you watched Fargo then you've heard it.


message 27: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments I am only 50 pages in and am loving it. I loved Steinbeck's description of that feeling that needs to scratched- the urge to get up and go. I get that all the time and my friends even joke they know when I get the bug, that need to go.

I have always thought Americans have an inbred need to travel. We are a nation that is founded on people who have itchy feet. People who are willing to give up everything and make a new start are our heritage. I always assumed that Californians had the strongest urge to travel. We are the final frontier. We got the most intrepid travelers, the ones who just couldn't settled. Steinbeck is a Californian and so am I. My grandfather came west in a covered wagon with his 11 brothers and sister. How much more American can you get?

This book is so delightful that I'm putting my computer away and reading some more of it.


message 28: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Susan wrote: "I am only 50 pages in and am loving it. I loved Steinbeck's description of that feeling that needs to scratched- the urge to get up and go. I get that all the time and my friends even joke they kno..."
I agree that Americans may be second only to Australians for having the travel bug. I won't get myself into trouble by detailing why Australians travel so much (they'll tell you themselves) but there is definitely something in our culture that makes us love to hit the road.


message 29: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen | 2409 comments I downloaded this as an audiobook from my local library, and I've listened to it sporadically on my commute. Gary Sinise narrates it, and I'm really enjoying his reading. His voice fits this book perfectly--the kind of no-nonsense, straightforward voice I imagine Steinbeck must have had.

As far as the book itself, I'm really enjoying the episodes, interspersed with his musings about the US, the interstate highway system, religion and regions. He does seem wistful at times that progress is leaving behind byways and towns, but certain comments of his don't even sound (to my ears, at least!) as if they're from 50-odd years ago.
The episode when Steinbeck turns into a motel near NH and waits all afternoon and evening for anyone to turn up actually made me a little apprehensive. He describes the sinks soaking, the lights on, the pies and cakes on the lunchtop counter--but no one ever materializes. That whole scene felt eerie to me--more like a scene out of a Stephen King novel than a Steinbeck on.
Another thought I've had as I listen--just how big can his truck be? Maybe I misheard but I thought he said he had 6 visitors squeezed in around a table. I'm imagining a regular pick-up truck with camper top. I'll have to find a photo or illustration of this truck...


message 30: by Susan (last edited Feb 25, 2015 06:48PM) (new)

Susan | 4707 comments Cathleen, we had a 1962 Chevy pick-up with a camper on the back and we drove from Sacramento to Louisiana with the four kids one year. They were 12-6 and we all fit in so it wouldn't be impossible to have six people in there. It would be very cramped but doable.

We had a great trip and stopped at Disneyland, Carlsbad Caverns, Tombstone, the Alamo, Houston Space Center and visited with family in Louisiana for 10 days. On the way back we stopped at Six Flags over Texas and the Grand Canyon. We were gone about 5-6 weeks and it was the best trip ever. Every 3 or 4th day I made my husband get a hotel room. He thought I was spoiled rotten. That's right four kids in a small camper cooking all the meals. I was sooo spoiled. It was so much fun as we stopped where ever we wanted with no deadlines. It's a great way to travel.


message 31: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Cathleen wrote: "I downloaded this as an audiobook from my local library, and I've listened to it sporadically on my commute. Gary Sinise narrates it, and I'm really enjoying his reading. His voice fits this book..."

Yes it was hard to believe all those French Canadian potato harvesters squeezed into his truck. And that scene in NH where no one ever showed up was eerie. I wondered why he didn't just stay.


message 32: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments It was a very eerie scene. I think I would asked around.


message 33: by Emma (new)

Emma Flanagan (emma89) I think I'd have gotten the hell out of there


message 34: by Allan (new)

Allan Here's a couple of links with pictures of 'Rocinante', Steinbeck's camper.

http://www.campingandrving.com/rocina...

http://www.pauahtun.org/Misc/Rocinant...


message 35: by Emma (new)

Emma Flanagan (emma89) It's small but bigger than pictures I've seen of other caravans or similar things from the period


message 36: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen | 2409 comments Susan wrote: "Cathleen, we had a 1962 Chevy pick-up with a camper on the back and we drove from Sacramento to Louisiana with the four kids one year. They were 12-6 and we all fit in so it wouldn't be impossible ..."

Susan, that sounds like a trip of a lifetime. It sounds like it would have been so much fun.

A former co-worker retired a year or so ago, and she and her husband sold their house and close to all of their possessions--and bought a "5th Wheel," a really roomy RV that hitches to the back of a pickup truck. Last year, they meandered all over the country. I don't think they had a firm plan--they just seemed to go wherever they fancied. They and their dog ended up spending a lot of time in the western mountain states--and their grown kids even flew out to go hiking with them. The photos were breathtaking. I still think that's one of the coolest retirements I've ever heard about :)


message 37: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen | 2409 comments Allan wrote: "Here's a couple of links with pictures of 'Rocinante', Steinbeck's camper.

http://www.campingandrving.com/rocina...

http://www.pauahtun.org/Misc/Rocinant..."

Thanks, Allan. Those photos are sort of what I imagined--but it's so much clearer for me now, seeing the actual truck.


message 38: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen | 2409 comments I know several people have commented on Steinbeck's tone and his wit in this text. I'm enjoying his voice in this book because I'm accustomed to the somber tone in most of his novels, like Of Mice and Men and Grapes of Wrath. His voice here is a welcome change.


message 39: by Susan (new)

Susan | 4707 comments The camper looks remarkably like ours and there was no way to communicate between the camper and the truck. It was wonderful for us as we didn't have to listen to whining but awful for the kids.

I like the passage where Steinbeck talks about losing the different American accents because of TV and radio and he really didn't hear any accent until he got to Montana of all places. I have never thought I had an accent because I live in Calif. so I talk like the TV and movies. I'm sure I do to other people but in my head I am accent free.

I am loving this book and I love his tone and wit too, Cathleen.


message 40: by Louise (new)

Louise | 82 comments Hello all,
It has been a while since i've posted, life just took over lateky, i have being keeping up with all the reads though.

But i write to tell you of my treasure. I bought travels with charley on kindle earlier in the year. But i really wanted a hard copy .....so today i headed over to Kennys bookstore..... I live in galway, and without much searching ( it's a massive warehouse of books) i came across a 1965 edition of the book, in great condition and for €3.

This has given me such a thrill. However, i dont know anyone in real life who would understand my excitement. So i brought it here to my fellow book lovers.


message 41: by Paul (new)

Paul Nothing better than finding a great edition of a book you want and for three euro .


message 42: by Claire (new)

Claire Fullerton (clairefullerton) Congratulations! This is proof that Kenny's bookstore is indeed a treasure trove! Thank you for sharing!


message 43: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen | 2409 comments Louise wrote: "Hello all,
It has been a while since i've posted, life just took over lateky, i have being keeping up with all the reads though.

But i write to tell you of my treasure. I bought travels with char..."


That is wonderful news, Louise. One more reason to love Kennys and Galway :)


message 44: by Trelawn (new)

Trelawn I made a purchase from Kenny's online the other day and, like you Louise, I am thrilled with with the quirky old edition I recieved for an outlay of €4.75.


message 45: by Louise (new)

Louise | 82 comments Thanks for the replies!
I just knew you would all understand my delight!

Trelawn.... What book was it you got?


message 46: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Louise - I can understand wanting a copy and love that you managed to find a copy in good condition for such a great price. Kennys is a treasure.


message 47: by Trelawn (new)

Trelawn Louise I got Changing Places http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/69... by David Lodge. It's the first part of a trilogy and has been on my radar for quite a while so I went ahead and ordered a copy last week.


message 48: by Allan (new)

Allan Always good to see people picking up great second hand books at bargain prices-it's my main justification for not using an ereader!


message 49: by Paul (new)

Paul Beyond the free classics and some new release offers I'm yet to see an offer on ebooks you cant match or beat in a real book somewhere second hand


message 50: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Trelawn wrote: "Louise I got Changing Places http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/69... by David Lodge. It's the first part of a trilogy and has been on my radar for quite a while so I went ahead and..."

I have a couple of David Lodge's books on my shelf that I picked up cheap at the library's used book store. I stay away except when making donations because I am likely to walk away with a bag of books!


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