Skip to main content

Travels with Charley

Maps are not reality at all -- they can be tyrants

We don't take a trip; the trip takes us. John Steinbeck wrote Travels with Charley in an attempt to traverse the countryside with his black French poodle contemplating whether there is anything that makes America distinct and if things had changed since the time he started writing about America (twenty years prior). 

Mr. Steinbeck related that part of his reasoning for taking the trip was motivated by the ageing process. He sneered at the idea of taking it easy later in life just to die slowly. "My wife married a man; I saw no reason she should inherit a baby," he says. 

His trek started in Long Island and ended up taking him through almost 40 states. While he took a lot paper and even a typewriter along with him, he acknowledged not using it much and the book reads more like a book of reflections rather than a journal giving specifics about the trip.

Differences were noted and discussed between each region, with some threads of similarity throughout. He rightly noted that all Americans have more in common with each other than the Welsh do with the English even though they live in closer proximity than is possible with many parts of America and even though they have been living near one another for a much longer time period. He attributes this to the restlessness that is common to all Americans -- we move around, explore, and interact.

Montana was his favorite state, and Texas seemed to be his least favorite. One of the last observations he had in the book was related to how clever humans are -- clever enough to split an atom, but not clever enough to live in peace with each other.

Travels with Charley was published mid-1962 and reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List.

In case anyone is keeping track:
-My mom recommended this book to me
-I found this book on my bookshelves at home
-I didn't realize it was a non-fiction book until I started reading it

Popular posts from this blog

A New Direction

Over the course of time, I have had quite a few different blogs with different themes and styles. My domain ( is up for renewal. I thought about not renewing it because I haven't updated this blog since April. In the end, I decided that I'm too sentimental to let it go. I've had this website in all of its various forms for about 20 years. As you can tell (see posts below), I gave up summarizing books back in April. I decided quickly that I preferred reading to summarizing the books in writing afterward. The entire process of writing my thoughts on the books was slowing down my reading pace! As soon as I finish a book, I have another one or two lined up to read next. Stopping to summarize and offer my pithy (I wish) thoughts was a drag. On average, I finished a book every 4.93 days in 2019. Some of these were audiobooks (they still totally count), but most were not (I say that because audiobooks don't really count - lol). Some people read many more b

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Since this book won the Pulitzer and has been made into a movie, it is likely that most people are already familiar with it. However, I was a little late to the game on this one. The Road is a post-apocalyptic story of a father and son trying to survive. They try to beat winter by heading south while attempting to do so without being noticed by others, some of whom have turned to cannibalism to survive. It's bleak. The manner and style of writing is unique as there are no chapter delineations, no quotation marks, no character names, and infrequent apostrophes. In that way, the style of writing mirrors the unfolding of the story -- going and going with few interruptions, going south, getting to the end, stunted conversation. Just survive. Get through. Simplify things. I found that I moved quickly through the book, which is the opposite of what happens when the chapters are long. Instead, this had no chapters but frequent spaces or gaps in the text, which made it seem OK to

The Collected Schizophrenias

As far as diagnoses go, there's nothing more frightening that schizophrenia -- at least in my book. Some could argue that cancer is scary -- it is certainly a tyrant, but schizophrenia's symptoms can be so unpredictable, bizarre, and varied that is scares me more. In addition, people with schizophrenia may not even know they are ill, which makes any kind of treatment very challenging. As a person trained to work with people with disabilities, I have been taught to use "person first" language. Did you notice above I said, "people with schizophrenia" and not "schizophrenics?" This is evidently a rule you can break if you are a person with schizophrenia as Esmé Weijun Wang is. She makes the point in the book that even the language we use about the disease shows that we fear it -- there is no adjective for cancer that relates to people. So, you may say that someone has cancer, but you wouldn't say that they are  cancer or even cancerous. But