Sunday, May 10, 2015

Book #19: Travels with Charley

I started reading John Steinbeck's memoir about a cross-country trip he took in 1960 in a truck camper with his dog Charley a few years ago and have no idea what distracted me from finishing it. Especially because I was enjoying it.

He wanted to reconnect with places he wrote about but hadn't been for years and to meet places he'd never been before.

He wanted to find America.

Steinbeck is among my favorite authors of all time. His writing is packed full of little gems of insight into human nature and quirky observations about the world.

Here are just a few examples - 

Regarding a dour waitress: "For a moment I considered giving her a five-dollar tip, but I knew what would happen. She wouldn't be glad. She'd just think I was crazy."

While driving through upstate New York: "Indeed the dismal downpour made my intended visit to Niagara Falls seem redundant."

On interpreting his experiences as he traveled: "I've always admired those reporters who can descend on an area, talk to key people, ask key questions, take samplings of opinions, and then set down an orderly report very like a road map. I envy this technique and at the same time do not trust it as a mirror of reality. I feel there are too many realities . . . for this reason I cannot commend this account as an America you will find."

This. This. So much this. America is not just one reality. No place is.

And, surprise! I couldn't resist googling "truck campers" as I read. More than once this week I fell asleep dreaming of packing one up and having my own adventures criss-crossing the country, experiencing as many realities as possible.

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