John Steinbeck’s Search for America

Daniel Douglas' Blog

Steinbeck+finish+no+lines Source: Scott Laumann

TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY is the “non-fictional” account of Steinbeck’s road trip across America in 1960. (I put the word “non-fictional” in quotes because although Steinbeck portrayed his journey as a cut-and-dry retelling of actual events, much scrutiny has been put to its authenticity in recent years.) Steinbeck’s son has said in interviews about the book, “He just sat in his camper and wrote all that shit.” This camper’s name was Rocinante, the same as Don Quixote’s horse, which is perhaps a small hint to the book’s romanticism vs. its reality. But whatever its connection to actual events, Travels with Charley remains a touching series of reflections about the passage of time and the changing landscape of American life.

At the time of this trip John Steinbeck was at the end of an illustrious and polarizing career. He cut the figure of a now basically extinct species of…

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