I started reading Travels with Charley after I was recommended a new book by Geert Mak, based on John Steinbeck's journey through America. I love Steinbeck, and this book was great as always. I had never heard about this book before but apparently it was a big hit when it was released, and rightly so.
It's the story of his journey through the States, to see America 'one more time' -- the author was an advanced age when he made the trip. At times melancholic, the book provides a heartwarming insight in what it is like to get old and to travel back to places where one has been before and to see how things have changed through time.
It's interesting that the author is looking back at his childhood in the book, but that the book itself shows its age as well. For example, Steinbeck brings many books and encyclopedias with him in his car -- where now a laptop or smartphone would get access to all that information and more. And halfway the author talks about Time magazine as a "bulwark" -- Time, which is now essentially digital only after huge losses on the print edition.
Never mind the age difference, and the fact that this is a 50 year old book, the book makes you relate to the author. The beautiful prose helps, but the wisdom of the author is even more important. He reflects how "the good old times" always seem to have been the generation before the previous. Something which is still true and I have written about myself.
Finally, this is a quintessential American book and the author loves his country. It is great to see more perspectives on how things "used to be" . A book I'd like to read is "Can't go home" by Tom Wolf.
Unexpected, for me, was his trip to the South and the violent racism that was still rampant then. Of course, this was 1960, a time the civil rights movement was in full swing, but it's hard to belief that that period is only 50 years ago.
Marvelous book, by a humble but highly skilled author.