Steinbeck and Things

Perhaps my favorite fiction author has been the late John Steinbeck. I best remember reading his Travels with Charley in Search of America back in high school – describing his road trip with his poodle driving a camper around America.

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Unlike some of his other books, Travels with Charley wasn’t required high school reading – it was my choice to read it and that made it even better. According to the Wikipedia article on the book, “the real reason for the trip was that Steinbeck knew he was dying and wanted to see his country one last time.”

Part of my love of Steinbeck’s work is the place he often writes about in many of his books – Monterey and Pacific Grove. His writing about those locales just brings them back to life. You can smell the salt water and, perhaps, even the sardines!

In an op-ed piece titled “A Recession Only Steinbeck Could Love” in today’s Washington Post, Rachel Dry writes about how there’s been an upsurge in interest of late in re-reading Steinbeck’s most read novel “The Grapes of Wrath”. She says “there’s nothing like a Great Recession to make people want to read about the Great Depression.”

Dry goes on to note Steinbeck’s views late in his life about American materialism – “the domino effect of materialism”. She concludes that “even if his rage makes him seem too curmudgeonly to take advice from, Steinbeck’s observations are worth listening to at this moment. Untangle yourself from things.”

It may be springtime in America – but it still feels pretty dark and cold. Feels like it’s time again to re-read Travels with Charley. Maybe follow that with Stegner’s Crossing to Safety.

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