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am 14. Juli 2000
Travels with Charley is a book that could not be written by any living writer. To write such a book requires the possession of a deeply ingrained curiosity about and love of people, a remarkable command of the English language, enough years under the belt to vividly recall a time when things were not as the are now, a hearty and tenacious grasp of life, and a sense adventure. It is difficult to imagine a modern novelist undertaking such a quest. Just think of it, Toni Morrison travelling about the country in a pickup with her dog (or cat for that matter), stopping at truck stops, camping in parks, and sleeping in roadside motels, all the while blending into the background, appearing as just an average Joe (or Josephine) so as to get a true picture of the land and its people and recording it all without once making a psychologically revealing admission. They just don't make them like ol' John anymore. More's the pity.
To see the book as just an interesting slice of Americana is to miss the point. Mr. Steinbeck was present at a number of important historical events in the life of America, especially during his travels through the southern states during their turbulent time of integration. He witnessed the integration of a school with all its protests and he recorded it without political posturing, without ulterior motive, simply as a witness to the people and the event. He described the birth of the modern interstate system and chronicled the effects it was beginning and could be expected to have on the small roadside towns throughout the nation. He recorded the rise of the motor hotel and the advent of the recreational vehicle. These may not seem significant now, but think how ubiquitous they have now become. Can you really imagine traveling by automobile these days without seeing a camper or motor home, or passing a Motel 6?
Mr. Steinbeck also chronicles the more subtle aspects of American life - the homogenization of both the country's language and its food, the form, style, and purpose of religion in America, and the mind of the people. This last is perhaps the most interesting. Along with John Dos Passos and Studs Terkel, Mr. Steinbeck has given us a great gift by having taken the time simply to talk with people and record what they said. Not what the policy makers and captains of industry said, but what Bill and Mary Jones of Cedar Rapids said. He had the restraint to listen, to follow along in conversations rather than to lead them. This in itself is not only a lost art, but a lost character quality among our nations people, especially our intellectuals and artists.
This is not only a book that should be read, it is a book that should be loaned. Loan it to everyone you know. I myself own three copies just to have two to loan to others. The book is that good and that important. We will not have another writer of such quality; let us therefor take all the more effort to appreciate his life's work.
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am 11. April 2000
Wow! Let me repeat: WOW! Steinbeck is not particularly known for his humor, but in Travels with Charley, he lets everything spill out of the bag. I don't want to ruin anything about this book for those who haven't read it, but it is one of the top five travel books I've ever come upon. (far better than On the Road, and right up there with Travels in Hyperreality).
Steinbeck packs his bags at the age of 60, and heads out to discover an America he claims he hasn't known for over 20 years. And although he never, in so many words, tells precisely what the White Whale of America is, I think he tells us the following:
America is a land of people who want to go somewhere else so they can be alone; and the only reason they want to go anywhere is so they can come back and tell everyone about it.
A word of warning: You will cringe at Steinbeck's description of the American South, and realize just how different it is than the rest of America.
Also: it is interesting to note that at the height of his career (1960), probably only less famous than Ernest Hemingway of all world literary figures at the time, not a single person recognized Steinbeck in his three months abroad. Tell me that isn't depressing for any Leos out there with literary aspirations. :)
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am 1. Februar 2012
1960, 60 Jahre alt, bestellt Nobelpreisautor John Steinbeck ein maßgeschneidertes Luxuswohnmobil, nennt es Rocinante und dreht eine große Runde durch die USA. Immer dabei: Pudel Charley; Gattin Elaine bleibt daheim auf Long Island. 1962 erscheint Travels with Charley, wenige Monate vor seiner (Steinbecks) Nobilitierung.

Was mir an diesem Buch auffällt: Der wohlgefällige Stil, die schönen Dialoge, die banalen Weisheiten und das Desinteresse an Amerika.

Zum Stil: Steinbeck schreibt ungemein flüssig, eingängig, lesbar und freundlich - ein netter Onkel beim Cognac am Kamin. Die Sätze fließen nur so dahin (ich hatte die englische, für mich sehr leicht lesbare, Ausgabe). Man sieht Steinbeck geradezu milde lächeln, während er die Zeilen entspannt zu Papier bringt. Stets wirbt er um das Einverständnis des Lesers, präsentiert Kritisches in leichtem Ton.

Nur gelegentlich gibt es eine längere Unterhaltung mit Zufallsbekannten. Aber dann sitzt jedes Wort. Oft beschreibt Steinbeck seine Gesprächspartner als etwas scheu und zurückhaltend, aber bei Kaffee und Whiskey im Wohnmobil tauen sie auf. Gern hätte ich mehr Dialoge gelesen, aber Steinbeck redet am liebsten mit seinem Pudel. Darum enthält das Buch viele Monologe und seitenlange Verallgemeinerungen:

Umweltverschmutzung ist schlecht. Kriegsschiffe bringen Tod. Polizisten und Grenzbeamte wecken Schuldgefühle. Die Vororte sind verschandelt. Raststätten servieren Fades. Texas ist etwas ganz Eigenes. Stimmt doch, oder? Reihenweise liefert Onkel Steinbeck Volksweisheiten, denen jeder brave Bürger gerne zustimmt. Er verkörpert geradezu gesunden Menschenverstand und normales Empfinden. (Mangel am Rand, der damals aber noch nicht galt: So schlecht Umweltverschmutzung auch ist, Steinbück spült seine eingeseifte Wäsche stets in klaren Bächen und Seen aus.)

Steinbeck müht sich nicht, besonders viele Orte und Begegnungen in sein Buch zu packen. Sie interessieren ihn gar nicht. Er lamentiert nur über den Verkehr und hässliche Vororte, ansonsten lässt er seine Gedanken fließen, feilt am Psychogramm eines Pudels, räsonniert über die Beschilderung und verflossene Dekaden. Wir erfahren weit mehr über Steinbeck und seinen Pudel Charley als über die USA. Immerhin beweist schon der Buchtitel "Travels with Charley" Desinteresse an Amerika; dem folgt zwar der Untertitel "In Search of America" - doch die Suche ist nur Vorwand für einen langen Gedankenstrom, Steinbeck wollte nicht wirklich viel finden. Auf Seite 168 von 274 hat er noch lange nicht die halbe Strecke absolviert; von der ganzen West-Ost-Rückreise gibt es nur einen Kurzbesuch in Texas und Rassenunruhen in New Orleans - aufwühlende Geschichten und Verallgemeinerungen über "Negroes". Dann verliert Steinbeck erklärtermaßen das Interesse am Umherziehen (kein Wunder bei dieser sinnlosen Gewalttour) und peitscht sein Luxusgehäuse nach Hause.

Desinteresse an Amerika und ein Mangel an konkreten Erlebnissen: das liegt vielleicht auch daran, dass ein Großteil des Buchs nicht Steinbecks tatsächliche Reise beschreibt, sondern laut Bill Steigerwald erfunden ist (Steinbeck wohnte viel öfter in teureren Herbergen als geschildert, sah häufiger seine Frau und fand Amerika schlechter als behauptet - aber all das hätte nicht zum Grundton des Buchs gepasst); ich hatte auch nicht ganz geglaubt, dass alle archetypischen zufallsbekanten Ur-Amerikaner im Buch echt waren, und dann noch so blendend konversierten, etwa die ehrlichen Landarbeiter, der blonde Rassist, der zornige schwarze Student, der schweigsame Midwesterner und der Schauspieler-Kauz (in einer Kritik zu Grapes of Wrath heißt es "Steinbeck's people are always on the verge of becoming human, but never do").

Ich habe das Buch auswärts in einer Notsituation gelesen, als nichts anderes greifbar war. Es hat mild unterhalten, aber kein Interesse an einem Nachschlag geweckt.
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am 9. April 1998
For ages 12-up, this book is an excellent journey. Steinbeck is a great writer, story teller, and I think I'm in love! If I could find a man with the sense of adventure, humor, and passion for life that he has, I would be the happiest girl alive. I cherish the fact that he has such a passion for life. He says, "For I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all,..." (17). I love that fact that he cares so much for his wife and devotes much of his time to his "...old Franch gentleman poodle known as Charley" (7). He also has a wise personality, and one can tell that he loves to investigate. In one part of the book he talks about how he is "over-interested injunk...Recently I stopped my car in front of the display yard of a junk dealer...it suddenly occurred to me that I had more than he had" (35). Anyway, if you want to read a book by an incredibly brilliant author who will take you on an across the country tour, meeting lots of people, read this! MReynolds
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am 1. Mai 1999
Written before the plethora of travelogues now available, Steinbeck was, as usual, ahead of his time. His observations are still fresh, and his style of writing as inviting as ever. After reading the other reviews of this book, however, I noticed one thing lacking: any mention of the inescapable fact that Charley was a standard poodle! Most unusual, then as now, to associate poodles with dreams of the open road. But Charley plays an important role in the book, as companion, conversation partner, and comic relief. Would the book have succeeded had Charley been a lab or a beagle? Perhaps--yet the idea of a tough and wisened writer touring the country with a poodle by his side is simply irresistible. Add this to all that is good about this book, and welcome the multitudes of poodle-lovers to its pages.
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am 9. April 1998
The past few weeks I have been reading Travels with Charley. But before I tell how I ranked it, first we must examine the parts that make up this book. No story line and a plot headed nowhere, like the winding roads, pretty well describes the writing style John Stienbeck used in his novel. This technique defines no barriers of pages, for Stienbeck's writing is not only words, but thoughts strung into ideas, which create the essence of memories. "When the radio was on, music had stimulated memory of times and places..." (74). This book worked in much the same way.
If you haven't read Travels with Charley it begins with an incurable itch "to be someplace else" (3). Stienbeck was infected and had been so for as long as he could remember. Neither time nor maturity could cure him. So, against the will of his friends, he set out on a journey too not only cures his itch but also to rediscover America. All of his experiences on the road are common, everyday feelings like fear, loneliness and even the sheer joy of escape. I'm not sure that Stienbeck ever did find America, but he found something even better. He found the stuff that America is made of, people. Every where he went, he went out of his way to meet someone new and see America through someone else's eyes. "I cannot commend this account as an America that you will find. So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes..." (60).
Nevertheless, I don't think that the point to his book was the journey. I think the point is taking a chance that he took. Everyone has an itch inside to do something or become something. This itch may be your destiny or your fate just waiting to be found. Taking Roctaine out on the open road all alone with only his old dog Charlie was chance that Stienbeck knew he had to take. I loved how whatever chances he took in life; he willingly faced the consequences. That was courageous and commendable. His irony ended the novel perfectly because after so long on roads he had never traveled when he finally reached the roads he knew he was perfectly lost. I guess you could say there's no place like home. Well, I definitely give this book a 10 because it was wonderfully written and a treat to read.
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am 7. April 1998
Book Review Travels with Charley While reading Travels with Charley, all of my preconceived notions were shot and my mind frame changed. When I chose this book it was nothing like I assumed it to be. I never thought it would be so full of lessons and insights into life. This book rates a ten on my list. Very few books have moved me and I have to say that Travels with Charlie definitely has. He lets his readers know that the world does not represent an evil place. There is still some good in life today. He gives insight into life in general as well as his own. His generalizations about how he feels inspired me to change the way that I live my life. I could quote a million phrases, but to really understand his words, one has to read the entire novel. I never expected a book about a man traveling around America to grab me with so much intensity. In my copy, I took a highlighter and marked every sentence that meant something to me. Travels with Charley not only added to my literary knowledge, but about the knowledge of fellings that I found within myself.END
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am 10. Februar 1998
In Steinbeck's travel across America, he sets out with the aspiration of rediscovering the country. He had lived his life in Maine, and had been longing to explore the country that he had lived in for years. Thus, he embarked. This book deals with his adventures across America. Throughout his book, Steinbeck tries to give a feeling of the "true" America. He talks to many people, from the removed country folk to the urban, big-city inhabitants. In his journal you will notice the difference between the two people. Steinbeck also talks of his love of the countryside and how this diversifies America. In the end, Travels with Charley: In Search of America turns out to be a great book, but it occasionally failed to sustain my interests. I found Steinbeck rambling sometimes, as he sometimes does, but it ended catching the true essence of America. Steinbeck has pieced together fascinating events that reflect the genuine America. It is not the America of people splashed across magazine tabloids or on the television, but the America of the working-class citizen.
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am 9. April 1998
I definitely reccommend this book. This book is about John Steinbeck and his journey across America. His only companion is a dog named Charley, and he travels through the country meeting all sorts of people and visiting all sorts of places. Steinbeck's odd ideas and amusing opinions kept my attention throughout the entire book. So many things that Steinbeck talked about were things that I have experienced and could relate to with ease and amusement. The fluidity of his writing makes it easy to understand so the book moves quickly. I loved the comical style of his writing and often found myself laughing outloud. Also, Steinbeck's thinking is so logical. He often brings things to my attention that I may have normally overlooked. If you're ever in the mood for a little light reading I would definitly suggest this book to you. This page turner holds your interest and makes a hard day a lot easier to manage.
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am 11. April 2000
I'm german, but I spent a year in America and I had to write an essay about the book. I didn't know what it was about when I started reading, but after a few pages Steinbeck caught my attention with his way of writing. I was really impressed how he described his feelings towards the journey. After reading "Of mice and men" I had to correct the view I had of John Steinbeck. The way he describes people is just amazing. I mainly read the book to compare the characters I meet during my year in Kansas with those in the book. But not just the people intested me, also how much the society has changed in 40 years. And I was surprised. Steinbeck previewed several themes that are of importance nowadays. for example the enviromental pronlems we have. Also the lack of interest in political matters. But without Charley the book would never be what it is. One laughs about him(yellostone national Park) but one the other hand one suffers when Charley feel bad. I liked to read the book, because it is written in an easy to understad language. That' why I rated the book 5.
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