Culture

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.