Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Travels With Charley in Search of America; John Steinbeck

 
Author:  John Steinbeck
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Edition: audio
Reader: Gary Sinise (very good)
Source: Library
Date Completed: 3/17/2012
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

After recently reading East of Eden by Steinbeck, one of my favorite classics of all time, I have to say that although I liked Travels With Charley in Search of America, to me, it paled slightly in comparison to other books I've read by him.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed spending time on the road with the author -- age 58 at the time-- and his poodle, Charley, as the two spent several months, traveling the US in a pick up truck -- some 10,000 miles, traveling from NY to CA and many places in between, with his goal being to feel a sense of connection with his country.

" 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."

On their journey, the reader gets a good mental image of what people in various parts of America thought of life in the 1960s, and just how dissatisfied many people were with their life at that time.  

“I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation – a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from Here.  They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something.  I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every state I visited.  Nearly every American hungers to move”

At times I felt as if Steinbeck was speaking directly to me, especially when he described autumn in New England,  Maine lobster, and his observations about nature and animals. He made appreciate, even more, how lucky I've been to have lived my life in various parts of new England.  His writing was often very humorous, and by having listened to the reader with this one, I admit to a few laugh out loud moments as well.

Steinbeck's goal with this trip was to feel a sense of connection with his country, and I thought about that a lot after I finished this book.  Personally, I was left with the impression that some of the places he visited, and the people he met, ultimately left him with a sense on sadness and a bit of a disconnect as well.  Hatred, discrimination and an unwillingness to accept the changes that were taking place in America in the 1960s by many, left me with a very unsettled feeling at times as well.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

33 comments:

  1. I read this one YEARS ago and it may be time for a re-read...I really liked your review of it!

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  2. I haven't read this, but now I really want to. I'm fascinated with the whole road trip experience in literature. If you liked this, you might also like Free Air by Sinclair Lewis, which I reviewed a few months ago.

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    1. Thanks Cath, for the suggestion of Free Air -- haven't tried that one.

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  3. One day I rally need to read more Steinbeck. I have only read Of Mice and Men and that was years ago!

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  4. I like this book so much that I've read it a couple times! Makes me want to hit the road!

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    1. Glad that you liked it enough to read a few times -- does make you want to take a road trip.

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  5. There's a black poodle in our neighborhood named Charley. This book sounds good and it sounds like Sinise is an excellent narrator.

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  6. I got this one out of the library on audio, and haven't listened to it yet. It sounds like something that I could really get invested in though, and though I have only read 2 of Steinbeck's books, I think that I will get a lot out of this one. GReat review today!

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    1. It makes for a good listening experience -- it's like you are being spoken to directly at times.

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  7. I am not familiar with this one at all. I really would like to read more of the classics. I think I'd appreciate them more than I did in high school, when they felt forced on me, and at the time all I wanted to read was science fiction!

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    1. It's funny I felt the same was about classics -- much more pleasurable reading it because you want to.

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  8. I've not read this one but I want to. I love Steinbeck's writing. I can see how a trip like that could leave you both hot and cold.

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    1. The period was such an unsettling time in our country. Makes a good listening experience.

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  9. I always think of Steinbeck as belonging to a much earlier period in our country's history, I didn't realize Travels with Charley took place in the 60's which I lived through as a teenager. Yes, a very unsettling time period. And while they haven't released it on DVD this was made into a film in the late 60's with Henry Fonda doing the narration.

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    1. You know now that you mention this I think I saw the Henry Fonda version years ago.

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  10. I didn't even know he had a dog!

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  11. I would love listening to Gary Sinese read a book even though I don't really care for audio books. For a person who loves to travel by car as much as I do, it's terrible that I have never read this book. Must get it to the top of my list.

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    1. Barbara, on your next trip you should try a non fiction audio on fiction with just a few characters. I'd recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks for (NF)-- it make the trip go so fast.

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  12. How have I not even heard of this Steinbeck novel?! Shows how much I know!

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  13. I really loved Of Mice and Men and want to read another Steinbeck book. I keep hearing great things about this one - I think it might just be the one.

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    1. I loved of Mice and Men as well -- so sad though.

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  14. I haven't read this one but JoAnn's awesome review of the audio has this one on my wishlist at Audible.com

    Now after reading your review I'll probably end up getting it!!

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  15. I should try audible.com. Everyone seems to be using it. I still get the actual books on cds from the library and listen when i drive.

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  16. I love this book. I've read all of Steinbeck's other big works (Eden, Grapes, Mice and Men, etc.) and they are wonderfully, but there's something great about his need to reconnect with his country. I'm a sucker for travel memoirs too, so I'm sure that's part of it.

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  17. I thought this book was just okay. It was a bit mundane. Afterwards, I read that it was not true. It was before authors were called out on their fudges.

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  18. East of Eden is one of my all-time favorites. Travels with Charley isn't quite in that category, but I still loved listening to this book. It felt like I got to know 'Steinbeck the man' where I had only previously known 'Steinbeck the author'. Glad you enjoyed this one, too!

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  19. I read this a long time ago and loved it then. Maybe why I also have this little idea in the back of my head about getting a dog and a van and taking off....

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  20. I've had this on my wish list for years. Maybe the audio is the way to go.

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  21. Great review Diane. Your last paragraph is particularly thought provoking. I am hoping to read East of Eden soon!

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