With nothing else to read and being the antisocial recluse that I am, I picked up Travels with Charley from my bookshelf last week and started reading it again. I remember disliking it the first time I read it, and I guess I thought maybe I’d have a new perspective this time around. The fact is, I still don’t like it.
I think John Steinbeck comes off as a pompous, old-fashioned, know-it-all asshole, particularly when he goes into his tangents about how he doesn’t really know anything about anything. Dude. If you don’t KNOW anything, then why are you writing a BOOK about it like I have nothing better to do than read a book with no conclusion except that there are no conclusions?
I think also that if John and I were to somehow meet and discuss this book, we would end up in a fistfight. I mean, I know the book is dated and his opinions are his opinions and all, but there are some places where if I could have reached into Rocinante and slapped him, I would have. I’ve read other accounts of cross country travel and the discovery of “America,” however that might be defined, and the authors are not nearly as selective or closed-minded as Steinbeck is in his discoveries. I mean, discluding Disneyland and Yellowstone National Park from consideration because they don’t represent American-ness? Are we talking about the same America, here?
If I was to say what the perfect cross-country “discovering America” novel was, I would have to say, hands-down, it’s On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I can read that book a thousand times and it never ceases to awe me. I also love Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon. But I think my next travel book is going to be A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I’ve not read it but the recommendations are high so I’m going for it. I’ve got just three weeks left until school starts again, so let’s get it started.