History

In Dubious Travels

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Bill Steigerwald has an article in the April Reason—on newsstands now!—arguing that a great deal of John Steinbeck's acclaimed travelogue Travels with Charley was fabricated. His essay caught the eye of The New York Times, which covered the story today:

Which way did he go, George, which way did he go?

In the published version of "Travels With Charley" Steinbeck's itinerary is often hard to follow, so Mr. Steigerwald created a timeline, drawing on newspaper accounts, biographies and Steinbeck's letters, to determine where Steinbeck was on such and such a date. Discrepancies with the book's account immediately popped up…."This is just grunt journalism," Mr. Steigerwald said of his research methods. "Anyone with a library card and a skeptical gene in his body could do what I did."

He added that he was a little surprised that his findings hadn't made more of a ripple among Steinbeck scholars: "'Travels With Charley' for 50 years has been touted, venerated, reviewed, mythologized as a true story, a nonfiction account of John Steinbeck's journey of discovery, driving slowly across America, camping out under the stars alone. Other than the fact that none of that is true, what can I tell you?" He added, "If scholars aren't concerned about this, what are they scholaring about?"

Read the whole Times piece here.

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  1. My first first.

    1. you’ll feel used in the morning 😉

              1. All you men are the same! Little boys with small dicks, not like Daddy!

                1. come back to my blog, or IM me on Messenger but leave me alone here.
                  rctlfy@hotmail.com

                  1. waiting RR, or are you too comfortable hiding behind Reason?

                    1. Read my blog!

                      Email me!

                      LOOOOOVE MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

  2. He added that he was a little surprised that his findings hadn’t made more of a ripple among Steinbeck scholars: “‘Travels With Charley’ for 50 years has been touted, venerated, reviewed, mythologized as a true story, a nonfiction account of John Steinbeck’s journey of discovery, driving slowly across America, camping out under the stars alone. Other than the fact that none of that is true, what can I tell you?” He added, “If scholars aren’t concerned about this, what are they scholaring about?”

    I don’t see why they would be too concerned. All that it requires is a shrug of the shoulders and the movement of the book from the nonfiction shelf to the fiction shelf.

    1. “All that it requires is a shrug of the shoulders and the movement of the book from the nonfiction shelf to the fiction shelf.”

      No, not quite “all”: a strong sense of intellectual honesty and moral courage is a prerequisite – which is why few of those in charge of libraries and virtually no leaders of seats of learning will shrug or move.

      Moral courage will likely be the problem at the libraries; but it is academe which today largely lacks the intellectual honesty to even address this issue, much less face the fact that a literary icon of left-leaning academics (yes,a redundancy) was a fraud and a liar.

      It should also be noted that this discovery is no surprise to most libertarians and conservatives who have the least familiarity with Steinbeck’s life and works.

  3. Your point being?

    1. He’s just trying to stir shit up, is all…

  4. I liked ‘East of Eden’. I read it when in my late teens. I thought it funny that Steinbeck couldn’t understand that futures markets were and still are good for farmers and others who produce commodities.

  5. Hey, my story has more cred than Obama’s

    1. I happen to be a “literary genuis.” Everbody says so.

      1. We know. You will be getting the literature prize this year, don’t worry. But you have to promise to write something. By yourself.

        1. If he got the Nobel for literature, wouldn’t he then need to…what’s the opposite of write a book? Burn books? Ban reading?

          That’s the way it works right? The Nobel committee gives him an award for something, and then he does the opposite?

  6. Yet another name added to my Worse Than Hitler list.

    1. Satan wouldn’t even let them enter

      1. Please laugh, it makes me feel smart.

  7. News Flash: Mark Twain lied in his travel books, too. The problem is approaching the books as literal reportage, instead of as literature. Steinbeck, like Twain and others before (and after) him, was using the form of the travelogue to make general observations about the country, to inform, and to entertain, not to create a literal diary of some boring trip. It’s an impressionist painting, not a photograph.
    Next I suppose will be an article about how so called reality TV shapes a narrative instead of just showing a literal view of what happened.

    1. he didn’t time travel to medieval England?

      1. Someone change my diaper.

        1. Yea, well, I usually have to change the real rather – and it ain’t to pleasant let me tell you

    2. The problem is approaching the books as literal reportage, instead of as literature.

      Steigerwald’s article acknowledges the book’s value as literature. But that value doesn’t mean there’s no sense in scholars or reporters trying to determine which elements are accurate. Or in letting people who took the book literally know that it ain’t all true. Unlike with, say, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it isn’t necessarily obvious to the casual reader that a great deal of the book is made up.

      1. There are books purported as fiction that are factual. Naivete is a choice with literature

        1. What do those big words I just used mean?

      2. Yes, he acknowledges the value — then ignores the context.

      3. I will tell Dr WHO on you. He is real.

        1. It’s “The Doctor” motherfucker.

      4. FaLiLV is accurate save the attorney’s race, which the publisher’s legal team made Thompson change.

    3. News Flash: The News Industrial Complex lies too, to make general observations… to inform.. entertain.. and impart their wisdom on us rubes. Like Steinbecks work here, it just shouldn’t be called non-fiction.

  8. Good God, man! Don’t say that out loud! Someone might hear you!

  9. “The Grapes of Wrath,” though frequently hoky, is well worth reading. Most of Steinbeck is not. “Travels with Charley,” like Margaret Mead’s “Coming of Age in Samoa,” is obvious jive. “Steinbeck scholars,” if such things exist, know they have a sweet deal going, and aren’t about to muck it up by getting involved with “facts.” I’m sorry, but anyone who gets “serious” about a book about some guy traveling around the country with a dog (particularly, a dog named “Charley”) is a bit of an idiot.

    1. What if the dog was called Old Yeller?

      1. Old Yeller is a game I used to play with my Daddy in his bed.

    2. You seriously used the word “jive”?

      Solid…

        1. Solid poopy in my diaper.

    3. No, the Grapes of Wrath is not worth reading. Boring beyond belief, you start talking like a hick if you read it too quickly, and the economics is the kind of things trolls tout.

    4. “The Grapes of Wrath,” though frequently hoky, is well worth reading.

      No it isn’t. It’s garbage. You can glean all you need to know to be culturally literate by watching the South Park parody. Fucking Steinbeck.

      1. Why does your attitude not surprise me.

        1. Because you have terrible taste? Fuck you.

      2. My God Venneman is a philistine douchebag. He is the worst fucking troll on Hit and Run.

    5. “”The Grapes of Wrath,” though frequently hoky sucks, and is well not worth reading.”

      FTFY

  10. More deregulation nightmares:

    *******************************

    A three-year-old boy was killed on Saturday night after falling off a children’s roller coaster in Illinois.

    The accident happened at the Go Bananas indoor amusement park.

    Police say Jayson Dansby was seated near the front of a roller coaster called Python Pit with his twin brother when he managed to get underneath the safety bar.

    *****************************

    I guess in Libertarinaland the operators of this death trap would be punished by the market of 3-year-olds. Too bad the market can’t bring poor little Jayson back to life.

    1. amusement rides are heavily regulated and they still fuck-up-even Disneyworld has mishaps

      1. A mishap? You call a dead kid a mishap?

        I bet $17.49 that there’s a friend or family member of a roller coaster baron in the office that so-called “regulates” the roller coasters. Maybe if we had sane campaign finance laws like every other country does this wouldn’t happen.

        1. Roller coaster barons all wear tophats and frock coats, it’s a known fact.

        2. In the legal sense it may be an accidental death not due to crime or negligence-a misadventure.
          Mishap is an unfortunate accident till we know otherwise but it is a tragedy nonetheless.

          I briefly googled regulators, and it appears to be an issue but I want to read more on the subject.

          I fail to see how campaign laws apply.

          1. The blogwhore gets trolled.

        3. Terrible thing, that. Of course, overseas, hundreds of kids are being violently killed on a regular basis by Obama.

          http://www.rawa.org/temp/runew…..63&mggal=6

          But, hey, none of those people are YOUR family members, right?

          I guess in “Knee-Jerk Anti-Libertarian Land” the accidental death of one American kid is much more deserving of attention than the predictable, regular violent deaths of scores of foreign kids, and the guy most responsible will still get your vote.

        4. You went from a roller coaster mishap to campaign finance law? There ought to be a law against that.

    2. Fuck amusement park regulations, I GOT MINE JACK!

    3. Well, I guess an amusement park that is so lax on safety that they let a three year old die will most likely go out of business after a lot of bad publicity and a massive law suit on the part of the parents. That eventuality ought to make most owners of those types of businesses be more careful about safety. As another poster pointed out, these businesses are already heavily regulated, so what’s your point. Should we just shut down all amusement parks? But what does this have to do with Steinbeck?

      1. Why the hell am I always referred to as another poster pointed out?
        It’s because I’m female, right! 😉

        1. No it’s because I’m special!

          1. Let’s have this out-sign in to messenger now

            1. SHUT UP YOU LITTLE BOY DICK!

      2. Don’t forget that even if they survive the lawsuits, they probably won’t be able to afford insurance again.

    4. “It’s a fuckin’ Catch-22 man.” I said. “You can’t identify an antenna before a transmission, but once you are exposed to a transmission, you might be under its influence.” I paused, my mind forming a disturbing thought. “Perhaps I’m an antenna myself now? I may have only killed Tyler because his code told me to. They wouldn’t need him anymore once I got the transmission. Shit, how can I tell?”

    5. I guess in Libertarinaland the operators of this death trap would be punished by the market of 3-year-olds. Too bad the market can’t bring poor little Jayson back to life.

      Well that and they will probably be sued into oblivion…and maybe even get criminal charges brought before them.

      By the way children die from accidents in Cuba as well.

      The difference being that in cuba the ride is owned by the state and if you complain about it you end up in prison or worse.

  11. The NYT article doesn’t mention that Reason is FUNDED BY THE KOCH BROTHERS!!!

  12. Some of the details about Northern California climate mentioned in Kerouac’s “On the Road” also don’t seem to jive with my own experiences as a lifelong resident. Maybe he made that stuff up, too. One day, we’ll wake up and learn that most of the stuff “everybody knows” was deliberately made up by somebody.

    1. when the blue pill wears off 😉

      1. At least that’s what my Daddy tells me.

    2. Hey, now you’re talking about family. I might have to start taking things personally?

  13. One of the last books that Steinbeck wrote happens to be my favorite…

    “The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights”. It was his retelling of the King Arthur stories, and its VERY good.

    1. ‘Course, it’s not as good as Howard Pyle’s Arthur books, but its still quite good, and shows another side of a fantastic author.

  14. Best part of the NYT article:

    “In some ways, Mr. Barich went on, Steinbeck’s view of America was much darker than he let on in the book. “The die was probably cast long before he hit the road,” he said, “and a lot of what he wrote was colored by the fact that he was so ill. But I still take seriously a lot of what he said about the country. His perceptions were right on the money about the death of localism, the growing homogeneity of America, the trashing of the environment. He was prescient about all that.”

    So … it doesn’t matter if much of the journey is made up, as long as the conclusions conform to my view of the world? Is that guy a parody of himself or what?

  15. Man-
    I’ve never read Reason comments before. This thread is hilarious!

    Sk

  16. I had my doubts about “Travels with Charley” when he mentions driving through “lush and lovely eastern Washington”, which is in fact a desert of bunchgrass, sagebrush, and exposed rock, as ny one who lived there can tell you.

  17. But enough about Steinbeck, let’s talk about me.

  18. I reread “Travels” just last month, while mocking the thousands of antique stores in New England Steinbeck joked that if he wanted to insure his offsprings’ wealth he would fill a warehouse full of 1950’s car parts and toasters and in fifty years they’d be worth a fortune. Of course he was right.
    Having read all his books (disliking ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ but loving most of the rest), I’d like to point out that his political views shifted as he aged. Towards the end he was very critical of communism and saw it as another type of facism.

  19. The reaction of Steinbeck scholars to this news is remarkable similar to the reaction of Shakespears “scholars,” as it has become increasingly obvious that the pedestrian businessman from Stratford who tried his hand at acting in London for a few years could not have written those great works. They can’t admit that the non-scholars are right, and have to scramble for explanations, or get all high and mighty and say, “so what, we’ve already figured it out. Too advanced for you to understand.”

    Snarkers: I’m not saying that John Steinbeck didn’t write the works attributed to him. OK?

  20. The man was a fiction writer.
    Evidently some remain unaware of the fact.

  21. I read all of Steinbeck’s novels as a young man. Travels With Charlie wasn’t particularly interesting. Probably my least favorite of his writing.

    I’m not surprised it was all a BS Hoax.

  22. ‘Doobious Company’ would be a catchy name for a medical marijuana dispensary.

  23. wonderful articles. i like it…

  24. Let’s have this out-sign in to messenger now

  25. Good God, man! Don’t say that out loud! Someone might hear you!

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