When Steinbeck Slept with Cattle

Tuesday, 13 March 2012 02:57 PM Written by 
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What Daggett Truck Line looked like circa 1960.
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What Daggett Truck Line looked like in the fall of 2010.
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A closeup of a half-mile-long turkey barn in Frazee.

"Travels Without Charley" explains in great detail how I discovered that John Steinbeck’s 1962 travel classic "Travels With 2010-10-31_16.07.09_copyCharley" – marketed and taught as a work of nonfiction for half a century -- is not a true and honest account of the cross-country trip he made in the fall of 1960. The best place to start is where I did, at the beginning.

 

“Charley” & America in Pictures

In the fall of 2010, when I retraced the road trip John Steinbeck made for his bestseller “Travels With Charley,” I took nearly 2,000 pictures of America and Americans.

I took snapshots of people I met, places I went or things I thought were interesting, pretty, funny or stupid. I photographed many places Steinbeck mentions in “Travels With Charley” as well as hotels and homes he stayed at while on his 1960 journey.

Some of my photos are pretty good, some are blurry or kind of crazy. Many were taken through my car windows at 70 mph.

Collectively they help me tell the true story of “Travels With Charley” and provide a hint of the beautiful country and good people I saw on my high-speed dash down the Steinbeck Highway.

At least one picture from my trip, starting with Steinbeck's summer home in Sag Harbor, N.Y., will be posted here each day until July 29, 2012, the 50th anniversary of the publication of "Travels With Charley in Search of America.

True Discoveries

I discovered two important truths when I set out to follow John Steinbeck’s "Travels With Charley" route in the fall of 2010. I found out Steinbeck’s iconic nonfiction book was a 50-year-old literary fraud. And I found out that despite the Great Recession and national headlines dripping with gloom and doom,  America is still a big, empty, rich, safe, clean, prosperous and friendly country. How I stumbled onto Steinbeck’s deceit and the daily account of my 11,276-mile drive from Long Island to Maine to California and back are stored in all their gory detail at Travels Without Charley. Meanwhile, I’m in the process of turning my adventures with John Steinbeck and his famous work into a book of my own. A nonfiction one.

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