Travels with Charley: In Search of America ISBN – 0140053204

By John Steinbeck – Penguin Books (1980) – Paperback – 277 pages – ISBN 0140053204 Thirty-five years ago, when “searching for America” was not yet the cliche it has since become, Steinbeck hit the highways with his French poodle, Charley. In a custom-built camper he named Rosinante after Don Quixote’s steed, the two traveled the country–10,000 miles and 34 states. Their varied experiences comprise several slices of small-town, back-roads Americana. Steinbeck laments the rise of plastic-covered everything, the vacuousness of “sad souls” he encounters, and the homogenization of local and regional culture. But bright spots abound, and Steinbeck rarely forsakes his humor and his hope in the human spirit. He reluctantly swings through the segregated Deep South before he concludes his trip. Here, the ugly specter of racism pervades all, and Steinbeck’s chronicle is profoundly disturbing.

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