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Travels with Charley: In Search of Americaby John Steinbeck
Wanderlust is a pervasive, seemingly incurable "virus of restlessness." Not contagious in any clinical sense, you either have it or you don't. John Steinbeck did, in spades. As the 1960s commenced, Steinbeck, according to his oldest son, sensed his impending twilight, and thus set out with his French poodle, Charley, to see his country a final time. Spanning nearly 10,000 miles — from New York, through New England, across the northern U.S. border, into the Pacific Northwest, down through California and the Southwest, across Texas and the Deep South, and back up to the Empire State — Travels with Charley is a classic travelogue full of hope and heartbreak. Steinbeck's journey showed him an America of utter abundance, full of wrenching beauty, yet also replete with deplorable excess and intolerance. Nearly 50 years later, the book's candid observations remain both poignant and pertinent, a literary snapshot of a nation whose idyllic portrayal of itself never quite lives up to its reality.
Synopses & Reviews
Unburdened by the material necessities of the more fortunate, the denizens of Cannery Row discover rewards unknown in more traditional society. Henry the painter sorts through junk lots for pieces of wood to incorporate into the boat he is building, while the girls from Dora Flood’s bordello venture out now and then to enjoy a bit of sunshine. Lee Chong stocks his grocery with almost anything a man could want, and Doc, a young marine biologist who ministers to sick puppies and unhappy souls, unexpectedly finds true love. Cannery Row is just a few blocks long, but the story it harbors is suffused with warmth, understanding, and a great fund of human values.
First published in 1945, Cannery Row focuses on the acceptance of life as it is—both the exuberance of community and the loneliness of the individual. John Steinbeck draws on his memories of the real inhabitants of Monterey, California, and interweaves their stories in this world where only the fittest survive—creating what is at once one of his most humorous and poignant works. In Cannery Row, John Steinbeck returns to the setting of Tortilla Flat to create another evocative portrait of life as it is lived by those who unabashedly put the highest value on the intangibles—human warmth, camaraderie, and love.
To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light--these were John Steinbeck's goals as he set out, at the age of 58, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.
In September 1960, John Steinbeck and his poodle, Charley, embarked on a journey across America. A picaresque tale, this chronicle of their trip meanders through scenic backroads and speeds along anonymous superhighways, moving from small towns to growing cities to glorious wilderness oases. Travels with Charley in Search of America is animated by Steinbeck’s attention to the specific details of the natural world and his sense of how the lives of people are intimately connected to the rhythms of nature—to weather, geography, the cycle of the seasons. His keen ear for the transactions among people is evident, too, as he records the interests and obsessions that preoccupy the Americans he encounters along the way.
Travels with Charley in Search of America, originally published in 1962, provides an intimate and personal look at one of America’s most beloved writers in the later years of his life—a self-portrait of a man who never wrote an explicit autobiography. It was written during a time of upheaval and racial tension in the South—which Steinbeck witnessed firsthand—and is a stunning evocation of America on the eve of a tumultuous decade.
About the Author
No writer is more quintessentially American than John Steinbeck. Born in 1902 in Salinas, California, Steinbeck attended Stanford University before working at a series of mostly blue-collar jobs and embarking on his literary career. Profoundly committed to social progress, he used his writing to raise issues of labor exploitation and the plight of the common man, penning some of the greatest American novels of the twentieth century and winning such prestigious awards as the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. He received the Nobel Prize in 1962, "for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception." Today, more than thirty years after his death, he remains one of America's greatest writers and cultural figures.
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