Travels with Charley

I have been meaning to write more about Travels With Charley ever since I finished reading it.

It has been a very long time since I have found a book so quotable, or so beautiful. Steinbeck’s descriptions are poignant and real without being over-the-top or cliche. More than that, however, are his observations on American culture; it is interesting to see what has changed in the forty years since the book was written and what has not.

For example, Steinbeck is enamoured of RVs and trailer parks. He calls them a modern marvel and goes on at length about the freedom that they offer a man. In the course of the book, Steinbeck often stops to chat with trailer park residents, extolling their virtues and naming them the modern representations of Americans insatiable wanderlust.

Another example: Television is robbing America of its regional accents and dialects, turning American English into a flat, banal, homogeny of English devoid of charm and quirk. If he thought this forty some odd years ago, what would he think today?

For me, though, the single most important passage in the book is this: “I was born lost and take no pleasure in being found”. That sentence sums up the novel better than any tagline could. This book is about the willingness to be lost; the desire to find somewhere new and the hope that there will always be somewhere just a little more unique, just around the corner.

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Filed under Left From Seattle, The Four Eyed Monster

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