Tag Archives: Travels with Charley

On Cannery Row

One of the many benefits of living in northern California is being immersed in Steinbeck country. I read TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY last year — I’m pretty sure there’s a blog post on here about it — and it ranks as one of my favorite books. It’s one of those books I put off reading for years and years, and then voilà … read it in a day or two and fell in love.

We spent this weekend on Cannery Row. Growing up in Missouri, Cannery Row seemed like certain fiction. It’s still exactly like Steinbeck described it (minus the tourist junk).  Our hotel corridors were lined with photos of the Row back when sardines were the industry and Steinbeck and Doc Ricketts were there. And though the weather can be iffy in February, let me tell you … it was paradise. 75, sunny, and calm.

And being there made me, of course, want to read more Steinbeck.

CANNERY ROW is a favorite. So is EAST OF EDEN, which my book club read last year (thanks, Bonnie). I’ve tried to start THE GRAPES OF WRATH about 10 times. At least. I feel bad that I can’t get going, or rather, I can’t keep going.

Any Steinbeck fans out there?

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Steinbeck treasure

Busy writing (and not reading much) this morning, but I will say:  my husband recently brought home a First Edition of Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley.  It’s propped up on the bookshelf, next to all the other First Editions, face forward, right in my sight line.  And just looking at it makes me happy.

Fifty years on …

The last 20 pages of Travels with Charley are downright painful.  Steinbeck ends his journey across America with a stop in the south.  It is 1960.  The ‘n’ word is The Word.  He watches a demonstration outside a school where a little girl is trying to go to school.  Hatred and fear infect everyone and everything.

Fifty years later, things have improved, right?  Maybe.  But not enough.  When I visit my childhood home in southern Missouri, people still use that word.  There is still this hatred and fear.  Fifty years later.  When I tell this to friends and neighbors in northern California they, like Steinbeck, can’t believe it’s possible.  They have never seen it or heard it. “That can’t be,” they say.

I promise you.  It can.  It is.  Fifty years on and there is still such a long way to go.