Book review – Travels with Charley

When Narayanan mentioned about this book by John Steinbeck, I realised that there was so much to read and so many authors that I have missed completely !! The name John Steinbeck seemed familiar but none of his books rang a bell.

I immediately bought “Travels with Charley” and completed reading on New year day, Jan 1. It’s fascinating to see America through the eyes of an American especially in the 60’s. As a travelogue it’s probably a little less about the places but more about being on the road and the journey. It’s also about people and somehow I felt Steinbeck was looking to just spend time with himself and the interactions on the road were forced interactions.. He didn’t seem to seek people interaction much. I could be wrong, but there is a reluctance to meet people that comes through.

Some issues seem issues even today – garbage and inclusion of African Americans. Yes President Obama is a reality and things have moved forward but it’s fascinating to read about their struggle through the eyes of a white American. The young man who says Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr’s non-violent protest was slow and some action was needed.

I loved some of the statements – “We find after years of struggle, that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us” .. So true. The trip takes us 🙂

“The mountains of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use” – this book was written in 1960 and today not just the US but the whole world is in the grip of consumerism. We just replace things, never repair and keep buying more than what we need, consequently throw more. Just read that there are 700 plastic items in the oceans for every person alive, mind boggling !!!

“Just as our bread, mixed and baked, packaged and sold without benefit of accident or human fraility, is uniformly good and uniformly tasteless, so will our speech become one speech.” – Steinbeck was trying to see if language differed in different parts of the US but found that there was not much diversity there and that prompted the statement above. Again fascinating that the world doesn’t truly value diversity – it values conformance and one standard way of living, eating and speaking. Also if the bread was tasteless in 1960 … What we eat today, is non-food. There is a program on the History channel called “The food detectives”, that everyone must watch. It shows how corn flakes and other food items are made in the factory. Uniformly dead food and tasteless !!

I didn’t know John Steinbeck had won the Nobel prize for literature. Have also bought “Grapes of wrath” which I will start reading after completing “India’s biggest coverup” by Anuj Dhar.

In the meanwhile do read “Travels with Charley” – interesting book, especially for people who like to travel.

4 thoughts on “Book review – Travels with Charley”

  1. Lovely read! Thanks for introducing me to this book by John Steinbeck. I just read Of Mice and Men and have written a review on it. You may want to check it out : )

  2. You probably might like to read “East of Eden” as well. That, like the “Grapes of Wrath”, was a highly emotional novel. It talks of extremes of evil & good — and is said to have drawn inspiration from Cain & Abel in the Bible. I would not be able to give you a commentary on it– I read it decades ago. Yet I remember it was fairly absorbing when I read it as a youngster 🙂


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