Travels With Charley

In Search of America

Steinbeck, John

Book - 1986
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Travels With Charley
Thirty-five years ago, when "searching for America" was not yet the cliche it has since become, Steinbeck hit the highways with his French poodle, Charley. In a custom-built camper he named Rosinante after Don Quixote's steed, the two traveled the country--10,000 miles and 34 states. Their varied experiences comprise several slices of small-town, back-roads Americana. Steinbeck laments the rise of plastic-covered everything, the vacuousness of "sad souls" he encounters, and the homogenization of local and regional culture. But bright spots abound, and Steinbeck rarely forsakes his humor and his hope in the human spirit. He reluctantly swings through the segregated Deep South before he concludes his trip. Here, the ugly specter of racism pervades all, and Steinbeck's chronicle is profoundly disturbing.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Books, 1986, c1962
ISBN: 0140053204
Branch Call Number: 917.3 S815t 1986
Characteristics: 277 p. ;,18 cm


From Library Staff

In 1962 when "searching for America" was not yet the cliche it has since become, Steinbeck hit the highways with his French poodle, Charley. In a custom-built camper he named Rosinante after Don Quixote's steed, the two traveled the country--10,000 miles and 34 states. Their varied expe... Read More »

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Apr 16, 2014

left off on page 158 Montana.

Dec 08, 2013
  • lukasevansherman rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

What's more American than a road trip? How about a road trip with your dog? Boom. A later Steinbeck book, this is one of his most beloved and least preachy. His novels can be undermined by polemics and clumsy writing, but this is among his easiest, most likable books, if you can get past the somewhat insufferable subtitle ("In Search of America").

Jul 25, 2013
  • banjodog rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Read this book years ago and still love it. I hate to think what Steinbeck would think of Seattle now with our traffic and the exchange of our beautiful farm lands with strip malls.

Apr 12, 2013
  • negovdlp rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

I enjoyed this book, and found it very interesting to read about traveling in the US in the '60s. Having driven the states myself, it was fun to read the differences between doing it now and back in the day! I think I would have liked to have read less introspection, and more about the interactions he had with the people.

Apr 12, 2013
  • JCLHopeH rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Get a different glimpse of John Steinbeck as he details his journey to the corners of the United States, experiencing 1960s America first-hand with his French poodle as his constant companion. Steinbeck's wit shines, and his honest reflections about his acquaintances are just as satisfying. This autobiographical narrative is well worth the read again and again.

Apr 24, 2012

I read this during high school or college I think. I've always remembered it as something I really loved, and would want to read again.

Dec 29, 2010
  • Juds2u rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Steinbeck wrote this book in 1960; 8 years before his death at age 66. It chronicles his quest to re-discover an America with which he'd lost touch and, consequently, no longer felt capable of writing about in any kind of authoritative way. Conveying him to this somewhat metaphysical destination was a 3/4 ton pickup truck with a well-equipped camper top that Steinbeck named "Rocinante" after the faithful and trustworthy steed of Don Quixote's heroic adventures.
At 58 years of age, Steinbeck was undoubtedly poised at a point in life where reflection and reassessment were necessary. Just as his own life was slowing down in a physical way - he makes oblique references to the toll of age on his health - the social and political climate was heating up and the physical appearance of the country was changing dramatically as technology and construction exploded.
The entire sojourn took about 2 months. A gentle listener, Steinbeck delighted in and was energized by communing with the odd assortment of characters he met on the road with notable scenes in which he entertained a group of itinerant French Canadian farm workers and a travelling actor. Some of his experiences nourished his soul, like the spectacular vistas of the Continental Divide and the commaraderie of coffee and coversation with the many Truckers whom he met and respected for their insights and knowledge gained from experience on the road. Other experiences left him poignantly despondent in spirit, like observing the cruelty of the southern bigots in the midst of the Civil Rights movement in New Orleans and the changes that the march of time and progress made to his childhood home town of Salinas near the Monterey Peninsula of California.
Against the changing backdrop of inner and outer scenery Steinbeck appeals to his insightful, discriminating canine friend, Charley; a standard French Poodle, for his sage opinions and unique take on contentious issues. On lonely stretches of biway he converses with Charley, probing him for his estimation of regional differences between Americans gleaned from a purely olfactory perspective. Charley and Steinbeck are both aging warriors who look after each other throughout. Charley suffers prostate problems and arthritis from an old car injury while Steinbeck perseveres with an obvious but underplayed heart condition. In one revealing scene, midway through the story, Steinbeck brings Charley to a vet's with an attack of prostatitis. The vet; a vitriolic misanthrope, is dismissive of Charley's pain saying that "Old dogs get aches and pains. That's just the way it is." In quick impassioned defence Steinbeck asserts, "So do old men," "that doesn't keep them from doing something about it." Steinbeck and Charley are well-suited companions with true respect and appreciation for each other. Turned inside-out, the journey is as much a vehicle for exploring the relationship of these two life-tested males of middle years as it is about the quest to extrapolate from the myriad perceptions of an epic road-trip the intrinsic character of America and Americans.

Sep 12, 2010

Loved it. I then again can't help that I love it because it's all about travel and going with your best canine friend. I loved the story. Sometimes Steinbecks' writing takes you away. It is so beautiful that you savour it for a moment in your mind. Hoping to see what he sees. I liked this book alot.

Jul 10, 2010
  • oregano1 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Trip across the country with dog.... some interesting descriptions of different areas as they were in the 6o's Enjoyed it.


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