Travels With Charley is almost 50 years old. It has its slow parts and silly parts and dumb parts. It contains obvious filler and fiction, but in many ways it is still a wonderful, quirky, and entertaining book. It contains flashes of Steinbeck’s great writing, humor, and cranky character, and it appeals to readers of all ages. That’s why it’s an American classic and still popular around the world.
OK, it looks as if Steinbeck was doing a lot of fictionalizing here, but it is also worth noting that Travels With Charley is a very good book, however fictional it may be, and Steinbeck was a very good writer. It is also worth noting that Steinbeck is one of those authors who inspires loyalty.
Lesser fry like Augusten Burroughs and James Frey and others got roasted for this very sort of thing. Different strokes for different folks so long as it has its "own sort of truth." Nothing means anything.ReplyDelete
Anonymous: who said the roasting was correct? In another post on this same blog I quoted William Faulkner's remark That there is more truth in fiction than in the best journalism. Another bromide: Judge the work, not the man.ReplyDelete
Still, a residue of disappointment remains. I wonder if Steinbeck was thinking of 'Charley' when he published the Winter of our Discontent the following year.
The novel is a morality tale, the story of a man of high rectitude living in a corrupt society with a son who cheats for a prize saying that everyone does it. The father proceeds to cheat as well.
The rumbling of conscience? Who knows.
John Steinbeck's books have brought me hours of pleasure. My brother loved his work even more than I. Nothing can change that.
Burroughs and Frey are lesser fry indeed. But this, from the article, is worth noting: "Steinbeck dropped hints in Charley that it wasn’t a work of nonfiction. He insisted, a little defensively, that he wasn’t trying to write a travelog or do real journalism. And he pointed out more than once that his trip was subjective and uniquely his, and so was its retelling."ReplyDelete
I also think Lincoln may be on to something regarding The Winter of Our Discontent.