Travels with Charley in Search of America: (Centennial Edition)

( 127 )

Overview

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 fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.

With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. And he reflects on the American character, racial ...

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Travels with Charley in Search of America

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Overview

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 fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.

With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. And he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, on a particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and on the unexpected kindness of strangers that is also a very real part of our national identity.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
“Pure delight, a pungent potpourri of places and people interspersed with bittersweet essays on everything from the emotional difficulties of growing old to the reasons why giant sequoias arouse such awe.” — The New York Times Book Review

“Profound, sympathetic, often angry . . . an honest moving book by one of our great writers.” — The San Francisco Examiner

“This is superior Steinbeck—a muscular, evocative report of a journey of rediscovery.” — John Barkham, Saturday Review Syndicate

“The eager, sensuous pages in which he writes about what he found and whom he encountered frame a picture of our human nature in the twentieth century which will not soon be surpassed.” — Edward Weeks, The Atlantic Monthly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142000700
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/5/2002
  • Series: Steinbeck's Centennial Series
  • Edition description: Steinbeck Centennial Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 493,857
  • Product dimensions: 5.56 (w) x 8.41 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet 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.

Biography

John Ernst Steinbeck, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner, was born in Salinas, California February 27, 1902. His father, John Steinbeck, served as Monterey County Treasurer for many years. His mother, Olive Hamilton, was a former schoolteacher who developed in him a love of literature. Young Steinbeck came to know the Salinas Valley well, working as a hired hand on nearby ranches in Monterey County. In 1919, he graduated from Salinas High School as president of his class and entered Stanford University majoring in English. Stanford did not claim his undivided attention. During this time he attended only sporadically while working at a variety jobs including on with the Big Sur highway project, and one at Spreckels Sugar Company near Salinas.

Steinbeck left Stanford permanently in 1925 to pursue a career in writing in New York City. He was unsuccessful and returned, disappointed, to California the following year. Though his first novel, Cup of Gold, was published in 1929, it attracted little literary attention. Two subsequent novels, The Pastures of Heaven and To A God Unknown, met the same fate.

After moving to the Monterey Peninsula in 1930, Steinbeck and his new wife, Carol Henning, made their home in Pacific Grove. Here, not far from famed Cannery Row, heart of the California sardine industry, Steinbeck found material he would later use for two more works, Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.

With Tortilla Flat (1935), Steinbeck's career took a decidedly positive turn, receiving the California Commonwealth Club's Gold Medal. He felt encouraged to continue writing, relying on extensive research and personal observation of the human drama for his stories. In 1937, Of Mice and Men was published. Two years later, the novel was produced on Broadway and made into a movie. In 1940, Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for Grapes of Wrath, bringing to public attention the plight of dispossessed farmers.

After Steinbeck and Henning divorced in 1942, he married Gwyndolyn Conger. The couple moved to New York City and had two sons, Thomas and two years later, John. During the war years, Steinbeck served as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. Some of his dispatches reappeared in Once There Was A War. In 1945, Steinbeck published Cannery Row and continued to write prolifically, producing plays, short stories and film scripts. In 1950, he married Elaine Anderson Scott and they remained together until his death.

Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 "...for his realistic as well as imaginative writings, distinguished by a sympathetic humor and keen social perception.." In his acceptance speech, Steinbeck summarized what he sought to achieve through his works:

"...Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it and it has not changed except to become more needed. The skalds, the bards, the writers are not separate and exclusive. From the beginning, their functions, their duties, their responsibilities have been decreed by our species...Further more, the writer is delegated to declare and to celebrate man's proven capacity of greatness of heart and spirit—gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope and emulation. I hold that a writer who does not passionately believe in the perfectibility of man has no dedication nor any membership in literature..."

Steinbeck remained a private person, shunning publicity and moving frequently in his search for privacy. He died on December 20, 1968 in New York City, where he and his family made a home. But his final resting place was the valley he had written about with such passion. At his request, his ashes were interred in the Garden of Memories cemetery in Salinas. He is survived by his son, Thomas.

Author biography courtesy of the National Steinbeck Center.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Amnesia Glasscock
      John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. (full name); Amnesia Glasscock
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 27, 1902
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salinas, California
    1. Date of Death:
      December 20, 1968
    2. Place of Death:
      New York, New York

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 127 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(74)

4 Star

(26)

3 Star

(12)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 127 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2011

    Good Read, but Best for Target Demographic

    In Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck with his poodle, Charley, sets out to rediscover the country he is known for writing about. In their pickup truck and camper, the duo embarks on a journey that spans from New England to California, from Midwest to Southwest, and from Yellowstone to New Orleans. On his journey, Steinbeck reflects on what makes America "America" and how our country had changed in the 1960's. As you may have guessed from the other reviews, this was overall a good read, it's John Steinbeck writing it after all. He gives plenty of details about all of the sights he sees and uses his great word choice to describe them, plus it's pretty entertaining, especially if you have a dog like Charley (I do). However, as a high school student, I found it hard to relate to. It deals with pretty universal themes, travel and what makes America "America". But, it also deals quite a bit with less universal themes, like aging and changing times. These themes are evident by Steinbeck's crotchetiness towards things like highways and vending machines. So as you could imagine, I couldn't always pay attention whenever he was complaining about plastic wrap or just being old. I suppose then the target demographic I would be referring to is anyone who can relate to a world that has changed dramatically in their adult lifetime, so you'd probably have to be a bit older than I am. Some major events have happened since I was born, but I was just a little kid who didn't really understand it and what it meant as far as change goes. You'd have to be someone who is old enough to compare one decade to another because you've lived as an adult through them. But don't lose hope if you're not old and crotchety! You will enjoy it if you're the kind of person who likes to travel or just are interested in the history of America in the 1960's (like I am), but maybe not as much as the former. If you do like Travels with Charley, it'd be worthwhile to read Steinbeck's other works or anything by similar authors, specifically Earnest Hemingway and The Old Man and the Sea.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    Funny and captivating

    I absolutely love this book. I enjoyed very much everything that John Steinbeck wrote, but it was all fiction. This is a more or less a factual account of one trip across America. Apart from the fact that I am planning such a trip myself, I could not put the book down, he is so entertaining, you laugh, you muse and you enjoy the beautiful stops with him along the journey. I recommend this book to everyone that enjoys traveling.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

     Reading the work of a literary giant is an experience in unders

     Reading the work of a literary giant is an experience in understanding what writing truly can be.  To have the occasion to hear the words of a legend read aloud adds to the experience while lowering “the fourth wall” between the writing and the reader.  When John Steinbeck gave expression to his thoughts, they were found to be concise, intelligent and had the ability to bring the reader to explore parts of her/him that were previously unknown.  When I found this audiobook in one of my sources, I was expecting a quality “read,” and one that would bring hours of reflection, frequent smiles and a few moments of “oh, My!”  I was not disappointed.
    When he was nearing 60, John Steinbeck purchased a 1960 GMC pick-up truck, had a custom camper made for it (maybe the first such camper in existence), took his Blue Standard Poodle, Charley, on a eleven-week, 10,000 mile journey across America.  He hoped to learn “what America really is (was)” by traveling the small roads, visiting the towns and talking to the people he met.  The unique camper and his “ambassador” (Charley) opened the way for him to meet people whom he would have had little opportunity to meet. What he found on this journey was that Americans were people, unique as individuals but not distinctive from other Americans. On this trek, he meet: Canadian migrant workers in New England, farmers in Wisconsin, an actor in the Northern Plains, old friends in Salinas, family in Texas and bigots and civil rights workers in the South.  All were people very real and very much alive.
    The majority of the book was delightful.  His conversations with Charley are the stuff of cherished friendships.  His thoughts on the things he saw reflect his powers of observation and his ability to effectively convey those thoughts to his readers.  The nights he spends in “Rocinante” (the name of Don Quixote’s horse and the moniker given his truck) were relatively few (the book indicates he suffered insomnia as well as he frequented motor courts) but it served as a place to entertain his new friends.  
    The painful part of the book was his account of his experience in the segregated South.  My “home” region has much to offer – beautiful landscapes, great food, distinct music, exceptional literature – but its history is not without serious stains.  When Mr. Steinbeck visited on this trip, the South was in the early skirmishes of the Civil Rights movement.  He saw the ugliness of those who were frightened of equality because they knew only how to be slaves to themselves.  He met quiet heroes who “forgot” to see color and therefore saw only fellow human beings.  He witnessed kindness and cruelty, beauty and depravity, tranquility amid chaos.  Then he wrote of what he saw so well the reader could feel the humidity, see the craziness and hear the groans of the labor pains of a culture being reborn.
    I look forward to reading many (perhaps all) of Mr. Steinbeck’s 32 published books.  But I doubt any will top the road trip I completed with him and Charley.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Good, but not what I expected

    In this book, Steinbeck decides to cure his "restless urge" to travel and drives cross-country in a camper top attached to three-quarter-ton pick up truck with companion, french poodle, Charley. His journey spans from New England to California, from Midwest to Southwest, and from Yellowstone to New Orleans. All throughout, Steinbeck attempts to "re-discover" America and realizes all the common changes throughout the country and also the attributes that make each destination unique. The book also highlights the relationship between Steinbeck and Charley as well as Steinbeck's fascination with the concept of travel. Overall, I thought this book was pretty good but it was not what I was expecting. after reading Of Mice and Men, I was expecting a book with awesome use of literary devices and allusions as well as powerful twists (I now realize this was a lot to expect from a non-fiction novel, but I thought Steinbeck could pull it off). The fact that Steinbeck was traveling with a dog made it even more appealing to the avid animal lover that is me, however, I thought the book was excruciatingly boring at parts and had an inadequate amount of references to Charley (not enough for me, anyway). I did like Steinbeck's opinionated, artistic point of view, however. I also agreed with a lot of his opinions about America in the 60's. I think the book could be appreciated more if it were read slowly, to savor all the details, but am not a slow reader and frankly, would not recommend this book to anyone looking for a short-read, or anyone with a limited amount of patience either. However, if you choose to give this book the time it requires to be enjoyable, then you may think otherwise.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    Discovering America

    I'm sure that at some point in one's life Steinbeck was a mandated read for any student who found themselves thrown into a high school literature course. Like most, I, too, received the dreaded assignment and begrudgingly cracked open the book, struggling to get through the mind numbing task in an effort to at least gain enough knowledge for the following week's class discussion, or the even more dreaded written book report. Now, decades later, with s few gray hairs and approaching the same age as Mr. Steinbeck when he penned this story, I have made my own choice to return to Steinbeck. In all truth, I chose this book as I believe all visionaries and dreamers like myself have, at least at one time in their life, planned a trip to explore beyond their immediate borders; whether the borders are real or imagined, and whether the trip comes to fruition or only remains in their mind. I also happen to like dogs. :)

    This story, however, is more that simply a journal of a man and his dog on a 3 month trek across the country. Steinbeck paints a picture with his words that you can visualize with such clarity, as if you were a stowaway in his customized van and were personally witness to all that he experienced. He describes places and people that are from a different era than we now know, and yet, these descriptions also hold elements that ring true today. Steinbeck takes you through the sad, scary, laughable, heart-warming and awesome moments with the people and landscapes he met along the way, along with the feelings for a love one left behind and the anxious yearning that we all feel when we've been away from home too long. Steinbeck's vocabulary has a richness and depth that is so singular in style that there is no doubt he rightfully earned his title as one of the Great American Writers.

    DLB2

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2014

    I remember being in this Clan...

    I think I was named Dove something (I can't even remember the last part of her name!) or something... I've rped in so many Clans as so many cats I've forgotten!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2014

    Cna I join?

    A sleek black she-cat pads in, green eyes looking for the leader. "Hello I am Shadeleaf. Can I join?"

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2014

    Wavepaw

    (Omg! I couldn't find you guys!!!!!!! I'm back now.)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2014

    Purplepatch

    Pads in. "Hi, I'm Purplepatch. I would like to join." She looks around and then waits for a cat to reply to her.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2014

    FernScar

    Looked around

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2014

    Luckpaw

    "So freakeh. May I join?" She mewls.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2014

    Left. Too inactive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2014

    Dragonwing and co.

    Or nah....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    Can I join?

    Your ad said you guys needed a leader. Can I be it?
    Feather

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2014

    Firebird

    Poko what da heck is going on here. Firebird

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2014

    Poko

    This is what is known as a dead Clan.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2014

    Wolfpelt

    Ah. Hello once again, Wavepaw. Would you mind advertising?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Wonderful

    This is one of my favorites books. If you are a traveler at heart you will be able to relate to the feelings of being out on the road.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2014

    I read this book in school and ended up liking it a lot. Steinbe

    I read this book in school and ended up liking it a lot. Steinbeck surprises me with his interesting encounters in a journey across America, an impressive cornerstone of literature.

    I would recommend this product along with Eighteen In Cross-country Odyssey by Benjamin Anderson, a tale about an eighteen-year-old’s journey across the United States between his high school and college careers, fraught with quirky encounters and beautiful scenery. Make sure not to miss either book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2013

    Great!!

    Another of Steinbeck's amazing writings!

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