Travels With Charlie In Search Of America
By: John Steinbeck
Penguin Classics; Deluxe, Anniversary edition (October 2, 2012)
Travels With Charlie In Search Of America is the classic road-trip tale. But instead of one of us commoners writing it – it’s John Steinbeck! Steinbeck sets off from the east coast in his new truck, with his old dog Charlie, looking for the American spirit. However, I am not sure he ever finds it. The book starts with well-documented narration and observation but ends with the tone of a lament. I am unsure if it is mourning the last few decades of American growth and change, or the advancing age of Steinbeck’s own life. Fantastic writing. Glad I finally got around to this classic.
Two of my favorite quotes:
I soon discovered that if a wayfaring stranger wishes to eavesdrop on a local population the places for him to slip in and hold his peace are bars and churches. But some New England towns don’t have bars, and church is only on Sunday. A good alternative is the roadside restaurant where men gather for breakfast before going to work or going hunting. To find these places inhabited, one must get up very early. And there is a drawback even to this. Early-rising men not only do not talk much to strangers, they barely talk to one another.
Writers facing the problem of Texas find themselves floundering in generalities, and I am no exception. Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word. And there’s an opening covey of generalities. A Texan outside of Texas is a foreigner.