Steinbeckathon 2012: Travels with Charley

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Steinbeckathon 2012: Travels with Charley

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nov. 1, 2012, 7:04pm

“Once Charley fell in love with a dachshund, a romance racially unsuitable, physically ridiculous, and mechanically impossible. But all these problems Charley ignored. He loved deeply and tried dogfully.”

“I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I've lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment.”

This is the discussion thread for John Steinbeck's Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Smiler69 (that's would be me, Ilana) will be hosting this thread.
Spoilers are welcome, but please indicate them in your message out of
respect for those who are reading at a different pace. Enjoy!

Steinbeckathon main thread:

nov. 1, 2012, 8:10pm

Just picked up copies of both of November's Steinbeck-a-thon books from the library. Itching to get started with them. Thanks for the beautiful threads!

Karen O.

nov. 1, 2012, 8:17pm

Hi Karen! I just went to pick up Travels with Charley from the library this afternoon too. I'm all set with two editions of The Pearl on my tbr on the other hand.

nov. 1, 2012, 9:12pm

Hoping to join you on Travels with Charley this month.

nov. 1, 2012, 9:31pm

Thanks for setting this up, Ilana. Definitely joining in for this one!

nov. 1, 2012, 9:53pm

I've heard so many good things about this one, I'm really looking forward to reconciling myself with Steinbeck after the Tortilla Flat fiasco!

nov. 2, 2012, 2:34am

Another wonderful Steinbeck month waiting for me...
I just bought the book for my Kindle. I'll start with The Pearl and then get to this one.
Thanks for the thread, Ilana!

nov. 2, 2012, 10:05am

Thanks for creating the threads for this month, Ilana. I will join in for at least this one and probably both. We're in month 11 of our Steinbeckathon --- I'm so glad we did it!

nov. 3, 2012, 6:26pm

Bother, library only has one copy and it's on loan until the end of the month! Oh dear.

It'll be a while before I can get to a bookshop, but I'll get it asap.

nov. 3, 2012, 9:22pm

#7 Always glad to have you along with us Nathalie!

#8 Yes, after this year, I'll feel like I have a pretty good base as far as Steinbeck goes, to be sure! The good news is there are quite a few more books of his to discover yet!

#9 Have you considered The BookDepository, Tania? They usually deliver pretty quickly. In these parts, in any case!

nov. 6, 2012, 2:19am

I finished The Pearl last night and started this one right away. I'm in love. *sigh*
I want a Rocinante for myself. And a Charley who can say 'Ftt'.

Btw. I tagged this as 'Fiction', but it's a real travelogue and therefore nonfiction? Sorry, I get into all Steinbeck books completely unprepared and don't want to check wikipedia because of possible spoilers.

nov. 6, 2012, 2:26pm

Nathalie, I started this one last night and also got hooked in immediately. I haven't gotten very far, though I did read the introduction first, which is something I never do usually. In this case I wasn't worried about spoilers as such, because yes, this is considered to be one of Steinbeck's works or non-fiction, along with A Russian Journal (which is on my tbr), The Log from the Sea of Cortez, and several others.

nov. 6, 2012, 5:09pm

I LOVE Travels with Charlie! I will be very interested to see what people think!

nov. 9, 2012, 12:19am

I started this evening. Not very far into it but I was hooked immediately.

nov. 9, 2012, 7:30pm

I've been enjoying the ride so far, and there's been plenty of food for thought. He talks a lot about plastics and the oversanitation everywhere, which I find interesting because I remember as I child having discussions with my parents about that all the time. I just finished a chapter where he talks about mobile homes and why people have chosen to live in them, and this at a time when they were just emerging as a lifestyle option.

His comments about highways and superhighways resonate very deeply with me, because I've always had a hatred for those things which destroy the landscape and have turned so many parts of the continent from beautiful areas to horrible eyesores. I wonder whether he'll talk about the problem of too many cars as a growing problem... can hardly see how he wouldn't, but I guess there's only one way to find out! :-)

Fascinating stuff. I need to start keeping post-its close at hand because there are plenty of passages I want to quote from!

nov. 9, 2012, 8:29pm

i just got started and agree - there are lots of quotables!
so many - you just have to read the whole thing.
have covered long island to maine so far, but he swept me away right from the beginning talking about how each trip has it's own personality. no matter what you plan. how very true!
loved his preparations, the storm, and observations of early risers' conversations. lol

nov. 10, 2012, 1:50am

May contain a small spoiler for the last 3rd of the book in the 2nd paragraph:

It might sound strange, but I was a bit jealous of his carefreeness re. technical progress. It reminded me of my childhood in the 70s, when you thought the future was without limits and that in the year 2000 you might have little aircrafts instead of cars. That was well stopped when 'sour rain' destroyed the forests in 1980, CFC became evil and suddenly everyone knew about the ozone layer. When he writes about 'disposable aluminium dishes you could just throw overboard' or how useful abestos can be... Not that I want to go back there, but those were such innocent times. Man could fly to the moon and everything seemed possible.

Okay, there was 'the bomb' and there were 'the Russians'. He later says somthing very nice about 'the Americans probably being the Russians' Russians'. Does anyone remember that song "Russians" ("the Russians love their children, too?"). Looking at that song now, it was such a self-evident statement. But I remember that in the 80s, in the middle of the cold war (Western Germany always standing on the side of the US) this was quite a revolutionary and courageous song.

nov. 10, 2012, 5:47pm

Nathalie, I was very surprised when he mentioned the aluminium dishes you could throw overboard, because he spent a considerable amount of time commenting on the garbage everywhere and how everything is disposable. An inconsistency there, or did I misunderstand his earlier comments to be criticism?

I used to love that "Russians" song. Had the album... it was Sting, The Dream of the Blue Turtles I believe (off to check...yes, that's right!). I just loved that song both both the lyrics and music and the delivery too—kept listening to it over and over and over again and thought that line about "The Russians love their children too" was an incredibly clever and accurate comment. And yes, that comment about 'the Americans probably being the Russians' Russians', was very good! So much good stuff in this book... every page is a revelation. :-)

nov. 10, 2012, 5:55pm

I was hoping to find some interesting insights on SparkNotes for this book, but it isn't featured. On the other hand, The Pearl is, so I'll post some content on that thread when I get to it, just after I've finished with Travels. I did find a review published in The Atlantic in 1962, for those who've finished or don't mind slight spoilers:

Editat: nov. 10, 2012, 6:29pm

I was just now digging around, shopping for options as far as various editions of Travels go. There is now a new Penguin Deluxe edition which came out in October to celebrate 50 years since Steinbeck's Nobel Prize win, which I'll probably get.

Anyway, I found the following article, called 'Travels With Charley': now officially mostly fiction which is related to this new edition, in which some further clarifications are made about Steinbeck's methods in writing this book in the introduction because of the revelations made by the author of the article in 2011.

I can't say it shocked me in the least. If you've read it, what do you think about it?

nov. 10, 2012, 6:31pm

So many insightful comments in this book. It's interesting to me to see what America was like in the year I was born.

Really enjoying this.

nov. 10, 2012, 11:15pm

I picked up my copy of Travels with Charley at the library today. Linda, I turned two years old the year it was published, so I have a similar interest in what the country was like before I developed memory.

nov. 10, 2012, 11:20pm

I'm especially interested in the part about Chicago since I've lived in the area my whole life. Great stories in this book.

nov. 11, 2012, 11:34am

#20 no, i am not shocked - and not even dismayed by this article. thanks for the link.

i think steinbeck captured the sense of the times and provided us a great read.

i too shuddered at the aluminum pan disposal. eeekk!

nov. 11, 2012, 2:08pm

i think steinbeck captured the sense of the times and provided us a great read.

Yes, that's what I think too. However, strangely enough, though I made that statement that the article hadn't changed the way I felt about the book and hadn't surprised me, I found that when I went back to reading it during my habitual bedtime reading session, my feeling and attitude toward the book had shifted somewhat. Not negatively, mind, but because the paradigm had shifted somewhat and been confirmed, I couldn't help looking at it in a slightly different way. Still enjoying it tremendously.

i too shuddered at the aluminum pan disposal. eeekk!

Never mind "saving the planet", I just don't understand how people can treat the environment as a trash can... it just defies common sense somehow!

I did end up ordering that Penguin Classics Deluxe edition finally. Can't wait to get it in the mail! If it's a deckle edge (which the Classics Deluxe editions usually are) I'll have to alert Mamie who is crazy about deckle edges!

nov. 12, 2012, 4:09am

Spoilers for the article mentioned in #20:
I read the article and wasn't too surprised. Well, maybe about the hotels and motels and about the wife being with him that often. But when it comes to the encounters with other people I didn't expect them to be taken 1:1 from reality. I'd do the same. Sad to know he was in such a low mood when he started his journey.

Probably people were told in the 60s that aluminium was as good as cardboard for one-time use. And throwing your trash into the ocean (where you couldn't see it anymore) sure wasn't as bad as just leaving it somewhere along the road. I remember times when people thought it good manners to bury their trash (bottles and cans) in the sand after a day on the beach.

nov. 12, 2012, 8:28pm

#26 Nathalie, I must now come clean: when I posted the link to the article, I had only read the one that link pointed to, and hadn't actually yet read the source article which started the whole thing. I meant to, and then forgot. But now seeing your comment, I made sure to read it this time and must say I'm disgusted. Don't get me wrong, not with Steinbeck. What is clearest of all to me is that Bill Steigerwald must have had a giant chip on his shoulder to write that article they way he did. While it's fine and even perfectly honourable to do investigative journalism, it just seems to me he was out to make Steinbeck look bad with cheap shots like "If Steinbeck sounds like a liberal who’d been living like a prince in New York City too long, it’s because that’s what he was." That really made me angry! ARgh! No, they probably shouldn't have marketed the book as non-fiction, but then, I wonder how many books would live up to that label if they were put under scrutiny...

nov. 13, 2012, 12:44pm

I didn't get as angry as you, but I also thought 'why does he have to try and spoil the fun for others?'. He got a newspaper blog, I am sure he got all his expenses paid, did he think he'd have to unearth some kind of scandal to prove to be worth his money? Was he envious because he actually had to sleep in his truck all the time and couldn't check into the luxury hotels?

nov. 16, 2012, 1:03am

Okay, I haven't paid any attention to the article, but I'll say this:
I'm almost done reading Travels with Charley and I love it. Other than the occasional lapse into pedantry, Steinbeck's prose is up to its usual wonderful level. At one point, Steinbeck mentions that he loves words and my reaction was "yeah, no kidding" because I think he is one of the finest wordsmiths I have ever read. Of course, I adore Charley and the book is making me want to load up a camper van and head out onto the road. So far, this may be my second-favorite in the Steinbeckathon.

nov. 16, 2012, 7:43pm

I'm just starting out, and I have to say that I'm very excited after reading these great testimonials. I'll have to dedicate some time to making some progress this weekend.

Karen O.

nov. 16, 2012, 9:02pm

I received the new Penguin Deluxe edition in the mail just yesterday. Gorgeous book!

nov. 17, 2012, 4:15pm

For some reason I had a really difficult time getting into the first two chapters. I reread twice and it wasn't clicking. So I began to read it aloud and that did the trick! Now my highlighter needs to be replaced often as there are so many great quotes.

nov. 17, 2012, 5:41pm

#32 Feel free to share any quotes you'd like to here. I regretted not stocking up on post-its before each reading session, since there was so much quotable material on every other page it seemed.

nov. 18, 2012, 1:03am

I flagged lots of quotes in this one -- more than usual. It's a very quotable work. :-)

nov. 27, 2012, 12:15am

I read the book last week, when my library copy finally arrived at my local branch. I'm not surprised by the article, really. I thought the way all the detail of getting across the first third of the country basically took up 2/3 of the book, and then he just swooshed through the rest of the country with very little detail was unusual. I do wonder if he actually was in the South to see those women at all, though.

des. 2, 2012, 7:27am

I enjoyed this book, but I thought it bittersweet. Steinbeck was "In Search of America" and he did discover both the beauty and ugliness found in America but I couldn't help but feel that he was searching for his youth and hoped to discover it in his old stomping grounds. He was a stranger there, however, old friends saw him differently and rehashing old memories only lasts for so long.
Charley was indeed a wonderful traveling companion.