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Travels with Charley: In Search of America
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Sara | 2357 comments Mod
This is the spoiler thread for our February 2015 group read.

Allan So, having finished the book, what does anyone think after reading this article?

Emma Flanagan (emma89) It certainly casts an interesting light on things. It doesn't surprise me that Steinbeck as a novelist would have embellished events and in deed created things where necessary. A long road trip like that while very picturesque can also be rather uneventful. I suspect that some of the characters he met were composites of numerous people to keep things simple. Some of them are extremely neat in a way real people generally aren't.

Serf Just read through that article and it reflects some of my thoughts throughout the book. I had the impression that the words were of a mans experiences throughout American with certain generalised individuals. Even though he put them to paper as experiences from one journey I thought they could have been from a life time of experiences.
His descriptions of nature made it clear his love was for wildlife, the outdoors and scerenity and not necessarily people, bustling cities and industry.
I found it interesting that his impression was that nobody wanted to discuss politics publicly. It was quite a dangerous time to have staunch opinions so maybe he was braver than most.

message 5: by Louise (new) - added it

Louise | 82 comments I really enjoyed this book. I was still reeling from the GRAPES OF WRATH, & in many ways TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY was the perfect follow up for me. I felt like I didn't want to move too far from steinbeck & this book was light enough in places for comfort. I also enjoyed hearing the actual voice of the man that wrote GOW. Or at least the voice he chose to have us hear.
I'm just crazy about steinbeck after this book. He was almost 60. It was 1960 & he was just so funny & charming & great. His observations on life in general are still valid now 50 plus years later. Or at least valid to me. I'll just say it. I have a huge crush on Mr steinbeck now.
As for the above article about whether or not he actually made the journey. It made me realise that it doesn't matter to me if he did or didn't. It doesn't take from the story and musings even a little. Because it's just john steinbeck telling a story in the way that only he can.

Sigh. Blush. Giggle.

Too much?


Barbara (bdegar) | 4626 comments Louise wrote: "I really enjoyed this book. I was still reeling from the GRAPES OF WRATH, & in many ways TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY was the perfect follow up for me. I felt like I didn't want to move too far from steinb..."

I love your comments. I am reading Travels for the second time and enjoying it even more.

Kevin There were many concepts I found interesting in this book but overall what I found most intriguing was how universal and non-America specific the characters' faults or problems were, like the young man who yearns to be free from his ignorant and uncaring father. The exceptions being the issues of race and politics that were brought up by Steinback which are somewhat unique to America. I won't lie, I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get more of an insight into this narrative in the book or at least get a more detailed insight into the relevant characters like the African American males which are introduced near the ending. Maybe this is justified by the book's intention not being to discuss race or politics but nonetheless I would ha

Susan | 4707 comments I just finished the book and loved it whether it was white washed a little or not. The 1960's were a very volatile time and I can see taking some of the politics out of it for the times. When I was 10 (1963) we went to Washington D.C. and I was taking a picture of the Supreme Court building with my trustee Brownie camera. A black woman came down the stairs cursing me because she thought I was taking pictures of her. I was scared.

The sections he wrote about the Redwoods and San Francisco were so wonderful. Willits is the Gateway to the Redwoods so I have spent a lot of time in them and have always felt like I was in a cathedral. I like how he said SF was The City. That is always the way I have known it.

I also liked his point that in a relatively short time (a little over 200 years) and with people from all over the world, America has developed a national identity. There are certain things that are important to Americans and identify us as a country. It really is a minor miracle that an Irish man can marry an Italian woman and have Americans. Or a Puerto Rican can marry an African-American and have Americans. I just wish we had leaders now like what we had in the 1770's.

Cathleen | 2409 comments This book, along with East of Eden, is making me reassess my view of Steinbeck. I am thoroughly enjoying this book, even thought it's not an entirely smooth reading. I just made it to the point where he and Charley are "talking." He's asking Charley questions and Charley's "talking back" and responding. It seems an abrupt and curious disjuncture from how he's treated Charley up to this point (they're in the Southwest now). I'm trying to figure out why he would switch from imagning how Charley would respond to actually giving him a voice.

I'm glad, though, that Steinbeck appears to conclude that he won't come to any grand summation of the American character. If he did, it would seem a little too neat and tidy, wholly unconvincing to me.

The one overriding impression I have, though, is the sublime writing. His descriptions of the land are simply and beautifully precise. I'm in awe of that dimension of his writing. His avowed intent may have been to describe the American identity--but he certainly captured the American landscape.

One of the frustrations of listening to a book is that I can't go back and look at how an author has constructed a sentence or passage. There have been a number of sections where I wanted to reread the passage or just see it again. When I listened today, he had a line about the desert--something about when the sun sets and the evening "gives consent" then the animals emerge. I loved that image. I'll have to get a copy of the book so I can see those phrases that riveted my attention and admiration.

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