In 1960, the author John Steinbeck drove across the United States in a camper truck called Rocinante (after Don Quixote’s horse). Accompanied only by a 10-year-old French poodle named Charley, Steinbeck travels from Long Island north to Maine and across the upper Midwest to Seattle, down to his native Salinas Valley in California, across to Texas, and through the South. Steinbeck’s travelogue chronicles an America losing its regional distinctiveness in favor of putting “cleanliness first at the expense of taste.” He deftly explores issues of racism, rural-urban migration, and poverty throughout this journey.
In his introduction to the 50th anniversary edition, Jay Parini writes “it would be a mistake to take this travelogue too literally, as Steinbeck was at heart a novelist, and he added countless touches – changing the sequence of events, elaborating on scenes, inventing dialogue – that one associates more with fiction than nonfiction.” Regardless of its authenticity, Travels with Charley is an excellent example of Steinbeck’s excellent dialogue and warm prose. A perfect companion for a summer road trip!
Availability: USMAI and SMCM Library
Review Submitted by: Kaitlyn Grigsby
Rating: Highly Recommended