Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I have a crush on John Steinbeck

I know he's dead, but I have an intellectual crush on this guy. I just finished reading Travels With Charley and I adored it. I was amazed at how his views of America and American's haven't changed much since he wrote the book in 1960. His chapter on Texas was spot on, for example, on how the wealthy and ranches go hand in hand. He said that no state or national politician from Texas could really get elected if he didn't own a ranch. Interesting.

This passage on the south (he passed through during the war for Civil Rights) struck me as particularly thoughtful:
The South is in the pain of labor with the nature of its future child still unknown. And I have thought that such is the bitterness of the labor that the child has been forgotten.
Sigh. The way this man rights is poetic. It's so well crafted that it sounds easy - though writers will tell you it's actually quite difficult.

Another sentence struck me too, this one written about the giant redwood trees in Oregon -- a place I have yet to visit:
From my earliest childhood I've felt that something was going on in the groves, something of which I was not a part.
Though he's talking about Oregon it reminds me of Maine.

What Steinbeck writes about the anxiousness of Americans about the Russians can be translated today for our anxiousness about the Middle East. If I could create my own Rocinante (the truck/home he traveled in) and take a year off from work and paying my bills, I would drive Steinbeck's trail with my version of Charley -- a long-haired chihuahua named Miles. This is my dream...

This book, along with On the Road make me want to get out there and see the country even though I despise driving long distances. It makes me want to explore, to see, to experience...I guess that's why I am a journalist and long to write. To all writers have this inherent need for learning and adventure? Probably not...but I'm sure it helps.

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