November 6, 1980
mind-reading dog, Charley.
Staff Book Reviewer
CLOVIS -- John Steinbeck
is a rugged, broad-shouldered, six-foot Californian, born in Salinas,
and destined to write his first stories about the Valley. He has
the gift of identifying himself passionately with other Americans,
with migratory fruit pickers, as in his novel In Dubious Battle,
and with the Okies, as in The Grapes of Wrath.
He relishes doing things
with his own two hands. He writes, "I have always lived violently,
drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept around the clock
or missed two nights of sleeping, worked too hard and too long in
glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I've lifted, pulled,
chopped, climbed, made love with joy and taken my hangovers as a
consequence, not as a punishment." Gradually his career drew
him into the success and confinement of Manhattan and Long Island,
and it came to him with a shock one day at the age of fifty-eight
to realize that not for twenty years had he seen at close hand the
country he had been writing about."
His recent book, Travels with Charley (Viking,
$4.95), is an account of the a motor trip back East. Befor he hits
the road, he feels uneasy, not sure his health would stand up to
the 10,000 drive and campout. But, he proceeds anyway.
Steinbeck outfitted a three-quarter-ton
truck, including a camper shell and a small boat. He took along
his small dog Charley, an over the hill somewhat cranky French poodle.
They set off together in the truck from
Salinas, Calif. in the autumn, and they drove from California all
the way to the East Coast and into the blazing foliage into Maine,
pausing at Deer Isle. While driving through Maine he writes that
he felt like "..Perry must have when he approached what he
thought was the North Pole...the sky was the color of wet gray aluminum
...my way went endlessly through the forest country and past many
lakes not yet frozen...Charley never got dry...there was no indication
where the sun might be, so I couldn't tell direction The darkness
crept down and the rain drummed on the steel roof of the the cab
and windshield sobbed their arcs. Tall dark trees, crowding the
garvel." A desolate loniness settled on me -- almist a frightening
lonliness.Charley wet and shivering, curled up in his coerner of
the seat offered no companionship. Then, at the Canadian
border, Steinbeck turned west, got out, sat down on the ground and
made camp beside a trout stream. After awhile he realized all he
wanted to was to get back home. The next day, he climbed back in
the truck dove like a man possessed through thirty-eight states,
where he was not recognized even once. Then suddenly he heard a
voice from the side of the roadf "Hi Charley - Hi John!
" and he knew he was home.
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