Whitewashing John Steinbeck

Why partisan politics and virulent racism were cut from the celebrated "non-fiction" road book Travels With Charley


Editor's Note: When John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley in Search of America was first published 50 years ago on July 27, 1962, it quickly sold hundreds of thousands of copies and stayed on the nonfiction bestseller lists for over a year. Since then it has become a classic American road book, loved by millions on account of Steinbeck's quirky humor, vivid descriptions of the natural world, and wise and cranky observations about America and its people.

Yet as Bill Steigerwald revealed in Reason's April 2011 issue, Steinbeck's work of "nonfiction" is riddled with fictional people and events and offers a mostly inaccurate portrait of the Nobel laureate's actual travels. As part of his groundbreaking research, Steigerwald read the original manuscript of Travels With Charley at New York's Morgan Museum and Library, where he discovered that the book's first draft was heavily edited to remove Steinbeck's New Deal politics and create the myth of an open-minded journey. Thus the reading public was deceived into seeing Steinbeck as an impartial observer, rather than as the staunch partisan he really was. Just as Barack Obama used composite characters and other fictional conceits in his memoir Dreams from My Father (as detailed in David Maraniss' recent biography of the president), Steinbeck departed from the truth in order to further his narrative.

Also excised from Steinbeck's original manuscript was a paragraph of racist and offensive language drawn from Steinbeck's encounter with a group of white female protesters outside of a recently integrated school in New Orleans. Disgusted by the hatred and annoyed that the national news media of the day censored the women's crude language, Steinbeck was eager to expose their statements. But the paragraph detailing their ugly hate was cut from the published version of the book and virtually no one has seen it in half a century. By cooperating with his publisher to suppress the disturbing truth about segregation, Steinbeck inadvertently abetted the system's continuance. Until now, the only place those chilling words of hate could be read was in the reading room of the beautiful Morgan Library.

Three weeks before I left on my trip to retrace John Steinbeck's steps in Travels With Charley in Search of America, I did something no one in the world had done in four years. I went to the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan to read the first draft of the book. The handwritten manuscript—along with a typed and edited copy—has been stored at the Morgan like the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark for almost 50 years.

Few scholars, graduate students, or critics had bothered to read it. If they had, the Travels With Charley myth—that for 11 weeks Steinbeck slowly traveled alone, camped out often, carefully studied the country, and told readers what he really thought about America and its 180 million people—might have been debunked decades ago.

The Charley manuscript has been at the Morgan since Steinbeck donated it in 1962. It is broken up into five or six handwritten chunks that Steinbeck finished about nine months after he returned from his road trip in early December, 1960. Written entirely in his barely decipherable scribble, with hardly a word crossed out or changed, each page is filled from top-to-bottom and edge-to-edge. It's mostly in pencil on carefully page-numbered yellow or white legal pads. One 50-page section, which Steinbeck wrote while vacationing in Barbados in February of 1961, is written in pen in a ledger-like book that also includes a daily journal he kept.

For three summer days in 2010 I sat in the reading room at the Morgan Library like a monk and took notes in longhand. I compared the first draft of what Steinbeck had given the working title In Quest of America with the final version of Travels With Charley stored on my smart-phone's Kindle app. According to Declan Kiely, the Morgan's curator of literary and historical manuscripts, fewer than six people had looked at the Charley manuscript since 2000. I was the first since 2006.

The edits to the first draft mostly make sense; a lot of extraneous details and long-windedness on Steinbeck's part are cut. But excising material about Steinbeck's regular liaisons with his wife Elaine in fancy hotels, his stay with his good friend and failed presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, and his outright contempt for Richard Nixon serve another purpose. The casual or romantic reader is left with the impression that Steinbeck was alone and on the road most of the time, when in fact he was neither. By the time Viking Press was done marketing the book as nonfiction and dressing it up with excellent but misleading illustrations by Don Freeman, the Travels With Charley myth was born and bronzed. The book was an instant and huge bestseller. Critics and reviewers, followed by several generations of scholars, never questioned the book's nonfiction status.

Nixon, Kennedy, and Adlai Stevenson

The historic Nixon-Kennedy presidential race was playing out in the fall of 1960 and part of Steinbeck's original mission was to take the political pulse of the country. He was sad to find that most of the people he saw on his trip did not have political opinions. Steinbeck was not a disinterested political observer. He was openly partisan and said as much in the first draft, where he wrote that he and Elaine "were and are partisan as all get out … confirmed, blown in the glass democrats…." That admission was cut.

A devout New Deal Democrat, Steinbeck had supported, worked for, and almost idolized the witty and egg-headed Adlai Stevenson, who lost the White House to Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 in lopsided elections. Steinbeck even stayed at Stevenson's 70-acre estate outside Chicago during the Charley trip, a fact that didn't make it into the published version of the book. Steinbeck, who wanted Stevenson to try again in 1960, didn't swoon over the prospects of a President John Kennedy. He was leery of JFK's character flaws and didn't think he could win because he was a Roman Catholic. But he loathed Nixon, as the first draft of Charley repeatedly makes clear.  

A 50-word passage mentioning Nixon was cut from the scene in Charley where Steinbeck is lost in a rainstorm in Medina, New York. Steinbeck had joked about hearing Nixon on the radio blaming every natural and unmentioned calamity "as far back as the Flood" on the Democratic Party. A few pages later a larger cut was made. Steinbeck wrote in the first draft that he watched Nixon and JFK debate on TV in his motel room in Buffalo. He criticized Nixon and Herbert Hoover and went on for about 150 words, making fun of their pedestrian reading habits and comparing their low intelligence levels to Kennedy's high one. "Being a democrat," he wrote, without capitalizing the word, "I wanted Kennedy to win…."

All four Nixon-Kennedy debates occurred while Steinbeck was on the road. Based on his letters and what he wrote in the first draft, he saw or heard each debate in full or in part. He wrote that he watched the third presidential debate on the TV in his room at a "pretty auto court" in Livingston, Montana. He sarcastically asked himself if Montanans had any real interest in the major geopolitical issue of the debate—whether the United States should stay and defend the tiny islands of Quemoy and Matsu, which the Red Chinese were shelling and threatening to take from Taiwan. Other political comments he made in San Francisco, Monterey, and Amarillo—some of them bipartisan in their cynicism—were axed completely.

Though it took most of the edge away from the book, cutting out almost all the presidential politics from Travels With Charley was smart and logical editing. First of all, by the time the book hit bookstores—in late July of 1962—the 1960 election was ancient history. Who cared what Steinbeck thought about the third JFK-Nixon debate? Plus, Steinbeck's political sniping was partisan, boring, and at odds with the rest of the book's grouchy but generally likable tone.

Yet cutting the politics out of Charley was an odd thing to do in a book that was supposed to be a nonfiction account of a trip taken during one of the country's most exciting and historic elections. The names Kennedy and Nixon hardly appear. In fact, thanks to the edits made to the first draft, each of their names appears just once—on page 176 of the 246-page 1962 Viking Press hardback edition, when Steinbeck arrives in Monterey a few days before the election and has a brief, hot partisan argument with his Republican sister.

In the end it was no great loss that politics was purged from Charley's first draft, because Steinbeck had pulled most of his punches anyway. What he wrote was softball stuff compared to what he expressed in long letters to Adlai Stevenson and his operatives in the run-up to the 1960 primary. In one letter now among the Stevenson papers kept at Princeton's Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Steinbeck casually referred to Kennedy as "a bed-hopper." It was a character flaw the author obviously knew about in the summer of 1960, even if the voting masses didn't.

Nor was Steinbeck shy about sharing his distaste for Richard Nixon in his first draft. But he didn't dare tell readers of Charley about the personal dirt he had on Nixon—which he privately urged the Stevenson camp to leak. In a letter to a Stevenson aide in the summer of 1960, Steinbeck wrote that he knew a talkative "psycho-analyst" in New York who bragged that he traveled three times a week to Washington to "put Dickie on the couch." Calling for tactics Tricky Dick himself would have countenanced, Steinbeck said, "it is pleasant to know that Poor Richard is not happy. But this should be used." If the Stevenson people didn't use it, Steinbeck said he'd try other channels. (Nixon's secret shrink was Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, whom the Kennedy campaign didn't find out about until the first week of September 1960.)

The Reality of Racism

Near the end of the Charley manuscript comes something that had to be cut because it was too graphic to publish in 1962. It was Steinbeck's transcription of what he heard a group of white mothers screaming outside the newly integrated William Frantz Elementary school in New Orleans' white Upper Ninth Ward. The women, the so-called Cheerleaders, gathered outside the school each morning and their protest had become a national news story. Steinbeck drove to New Orleans specifically to see the daily circus of hate and what he saw rightly disgusted him. He felt that the "sad sickness" of that racist sideshow could not be conveyed unless the foul things the working-class women screamed were put down on paper for all to see. Writing that he knew there was "not a chance in the world that my readers will see" the women's "bestial and degenerate" words, he quoted—or, more likely, he wrote down a condensed version of how he remembered them. His rendering raises questions of veracity in me if only because the taunt seems so masculine in its specifics. But there's little doubt that he was capturing what too many Americans thought when it came to integrating blacks into their full share of American life.

This is what Steinbeck said one woman shrieked at a white man who was defying the boycott by bringing his child to the virtually empty school: "You mother fucking, nigger sucking, prick licking piece of shit. Why you'd lick a dog's ass if he'd let you. Look at the bastard drag his dirty stinking ass along. You think that's his kid? That's a piece of shit. That's shit leading shit. Know what we ought to do? Strip down them fancy pants and cut off his balls and feed them to the pigs—that is if he's got any balls. How about it friends?"

Whether the quote is literally accurate or not, that paragraph of filth and hate, like Steinbeck's political play-by-play, never made it into the final version of the work. Travels with Charley is very much a PG-rated road book. Steinbeck's partisan leanings would have disturbed the general tone of the story by revealing its narrator as something other than a world-weary observer who cared more about deep truths and social trends than any ephemeral presidential election (his partisanship also ran the obvious risk of alienating the nearly 50 percent of American voters who voted for Nixon in 1960). The stark and vile racism expressed by the women in New Orleans similarly would have disrupted the overriding sensibility of Steinbeck's last major book. Cutting the women's crude remarks shielded millions of readers from the indefensible and irrational hatred and foulness at the heart of racial discrimination.

And so the obscenities were cut, as Steinbeck knew they would be. He ultimately rewrote part of the Cheerleaders scene, capturing the ugliness of the scene without using a single dirty word (he reported that the women used words that were "bestial and filthy and degenerate" without quoting them directly). The resulting book proved to be a massive hit with readers and critics, but partly because Travels With Charley was less than honest not just about early 1960s America but about its author's true feelings.

Bill Steigerwald worked as a writer, editor, and columnist for the Los Angeles Times in the 1980s, the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette in the 1990s, and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in the 2000s. This is adapted from his forthcoming book On the Road With Steinbeck's Ghost: In Search of America and the Truth about Travels With Charley. The blog he wrote while retracing Steinbeck's journey in the fall of 2010 is at The Truth About "Travels With Charley."

NEXT: What We Saw at the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum

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  1. Is Bill any relation to Lucy?

    1. I was pretending I didn’t see that. Now I has a sad. Was it something we said, Lucy?

      1. Why, dude? It’s just her dad.

        1. Nepotism makes Tonio sad.

          1. Well, sure, it makes all of us sad. But Tonio’s just pissed because his dad didn’t tap him to be the next president of his clown college, and chose Steve-o from Jackass instead.

            1. Don’t get me wrong… I love me some nepotism. I’ve just never had a relative that was in a position to help me get a job.

              1. What about your cousin who busses tables at Waffle House?

                1. I’m not fancy enough for that establishment.

                2. I need a ruling. Which is classier, Huddle House or Waffle House?

                  1. Huddle. Less stools, more tables, generally cleaner. But Waffle House is a better iteration of the greasy spoon diner food-wise.

                    1. It’s quite remarkable how small they can make those places. And they’re friggin’ everywhere in certain states.

                    2. What the fuck are you southerners talking about?

                    3. Chain greasy spoon diners. Go back to suckling your John Taylor’s Pork Roll.

                    4. Just go over to the dine-uh and have a grind-uh, Yankee.

                    5. Oh, please, like people from the North know how to make food.

                    6. Well, we do know how to make things that don’t involve deep frying or Wonder Bread.

                    7. Uh, huh. Without the South, we’d have been ostracized as food-evil long ago.

                    8. It’s quite remarkable how small they can make those places. And they’re friggin’ everywhere in certain states.

                      Fuck you!

                      /Stuck on west coast 800 miles from a Waffle House

                    9. What-evah, sloopy. You at least have In and Out Burger. I’d trade a 1,000 filthy Waffle Houses for a single IOB.

                    10. How funny–I was about to say the same thing.

                    11. Hey NutraSweet: guess what.

                    12. Flash freeze a burger and FedEx it to SugarFree. For a small consideration. After all, we are not communists.

                    13. It took us forever to get a Trader Joe’s. IOB in KY is just 20 years away, like fusion.

                    14. It’s a deal. You can have the lone In-N-Out Burger (and their religious tracts on the bottom of the cups) and I’ll take a Waffle House.

                      Although, Banjos and I have made this place our Saturday go-to breakfast joint. Country fried steak and eggs with ebelskivers and medisterpolse on the side. Yum!

                    15. We have both In-N-Out Burger and Waffle House here in Arizona. We even have Culver’s. We do not, however, have White Castle or Steak ‘n Shake.

                    16. We have Steak ‘n Shakes in some malls in AZ. I dunno why White Castle hasn’t tried to branch out here, though.

                    17. Pardon me, I was thinking of Steak Escapes.

                  2. Waffle House, Huddle House is a dive. They are both from where I live. Waffle House #1 is over in Avondale. The Huddle House world headquarters is in Decatur.

                    1. What’s funny is that those places exist and thrive in towns with tremendous local competition, where the local mom and pop is eleventy billion times better. Maybe it’s on pricing?

                      There are a shocking number of pancake places in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area. Including the chains. Some are excellent, yet the chains remain.

                    2. The chains are 24 hour and you can get breakfast anytime.They are usually very quick too.

                    3. Hmmm. Well, I think you may be on to something with the open-all-the-time part. Most of those places serve breakfast all day, assuming they’re open all day. Not all of them are. And the chains are cheaper.

                      I had some awesome blueberry pancakes up there last year. With those little mountain blueberries. De-lightful.

                    4. A big reason for their success is the fact that they are open 24 Hours. And when you’re on a bender food tastes so much better.

                      When you are sober a few weeks later and you are hungry on a Sunday morning, where are you gonna go? The local place whose menu you are unfamiliar with or the place that reminds you of eating country ham and eggs while all gas-faced with your buddies at 4 am?

                    5. What’s funny is that those places exist and thrive in towns with tremendous local competition, where the local mom and pop is eleventy billion times better.

                      “In olden times, you’d wander down to Mom’s Caf? for a bite to eat and a cup of joe, and you would feel right at home. It worked just fine if you never left your hometown. But if you went to the next town over, everyone would look up and stare at you when you came in the door, and the Blue Plate Special would be something you didn’t recognize. If you did enough traveling, you’d never feel at home anywhere.

                      But when a businessman from New Jersey goes to Dubuque, he knows he can walk into a McDonald’s and no one will stare at him. He can order without having to look at the menu, and the food will always taste the same. McDonald’s is Home, condensed into a three-ringed binder and xeroxed. “No surprises” is the motto of the franchise ghetto, its Good Housekeeping seal, subliminally blazoned on every sign and logo that make up the curves and grids of light that outline the Basin.

                      The people of America, who live in the world’s most surprising and terrible country, take comfort in that motto.”

                      -Neal Stevenson, Snow Crash

                    6. It may be from Snow Crash, but I’m still gonna read it in Tyler Durden’s voice.

                    7. “Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.”
                      -Nelson Algren

                      Neal Stevenson must never eat at an urban MacDonalds. Everyone stares at you, the food sucks unless the manager is really cracking down and sometimes they have McRibs out of season and weird shake flavors they don’t have at the other MacDonalds.

                  3. Driving to South Carolina, I swear once we got into Tennessee there was a Waffle House at every exit.

                    Driving home, I finally gave in and we ate at one. Pleasantly surprised – good greasy food and low prices. I also jumped off my low carb diet to eat some grits.

                    1. I had grits at Wild Eggs and have to say that this was the first time in my life I actually enjoyed them. The only grits I had previously were homemade by my friend’s mom from MD. It was like eating buttered sand. But those Wild Eggs grits were like jalapeno-bacon-cheddar custard. Pretty much amazing.

                    2. Grits, polenta, what’s the difference?

                    3. Grits, polenta, what’s the difference?

                      Polenta is the garbage that poor wops eat, that’s the difference.

                    4. Us wops like our grits with spaghetti sauce and cheese.

                    5. I only ate redneck-style grits in the military.

                    6. Polenta is ground too fine.

                    7. The only grits I had previously were homemade by my friend’s mom from MD.

                      Why would you eat grits from a woman in Maryland? What did you have for dinner, Texas sushi or Fried chicken Seattle-style?

                    8. Because people don’t eat grits where I live, and last time I was in Kentucky I turned them down (based on this previous experience). It was my next trip to Kentucky where I had the amazing ones.

                    9. The Waffle House at every exit also explains why they thrive. Yes there is a better place in town, but when Im driving thru, I can see the WH from the interstate.

                  4. My one and only stop at a Waffle House was to use a restroom at 2am somewhere in Georgia. I walked in, observed feces everywhere, and I mean everywhere, and have never stepped foot in one since.

                3. He had a kid with her, and he’s in no position to help that kid get anything except fetal alcohol syndrome.

                  1. Dude, I never had a kid with my friend’s mom. I always went anal with her out of respect for my buddy.

              2. I am way, way more charming and gregarious than my father. Just saying.

                1. Oh Gawd, that isn’t true.

                  But just remember I can delete your comments, but he can’t! Muahaha.

                  1. Threats, Lucy? Really?

                    (Please don’t ban me)

                    “Jerry, if you think that by threatening me you can get me to be your slave…well, that’s where you’re right. But–and I am only saying this because I care–there are a lot of decaffeinated brands on the market today that are just as tasty as the real thing.”

                    1. Could Lucy give us special inline coding powers?

                    2. I call dibs on the blink tag!

                2. That’s not what his stable of whores say.

                3. At least he can spell.

                  1. Gasp.

      2. See below at 2:02, guys.

    2. Some googling confirmed yes and it also led to a previous Reason article by him about Steinbeck where Lucy is arguing with a liberal troll who claims it is all a bircher conspiracy to slag Steinbeck.

      1. On the facebook post, not here. I’ve never been to the Reason facebook page. It’s as awful as you would expect.

      2. Come on… Make John do his own homework!

    3. He’s her dad. He’s also the only reason to read the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

      1. Thank you, Warty, thank you.

        (Private to Mr. S: Don’t freak, Dude, this is like the Little Rascals episode where the kids are all jealous of their beloved teacher’s boyfriend)

        1. Bill Steigerwald is in this notorious post

          He gives the right answer.

      2. He was the only reason. Now, well, I haven’t read it in a few years, so maybe there are no more reasons.

        1. LUCY! YAY!

          That new girl is mean and won’t come out to play with us.

          1. Which new girl? The intern? Have you been pulling her pigtails?

            1. I refuse to learn any names until she posts in the comments. I’ve been burned before.

            2. No, she pulled NutraSweet’s. Unfortunately, his pigtails are in his pubic region and it didn’t go well.

              1. Those aren’t pigtails, those are dreadlocks. You of all people should know the difference, you filthy-ass New York queer.

                1. I thought County Health SWAT finally washed Epi’s cloaca for him.

                  1. Well done working “cloaca” in there.

                2. Of course you know the fine details about NutraSweet’s pubic hair styles, Warty. WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED.

              2. The beadwork in those pigtails is impressive, though.

        2. Oh, did they fire him for not hating towelheads enough or something?

          Well, my grandma is a big fan of the crypto-quote game in the funny pages, and we can still use the paper to start fires, so I guess I can forgive my parents for retaining their subscription.

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  2. so steinbeck = goebbels ?!

    i has a sad (((

  3. The women were probably Democrats.

    Did Steinbeck mention the women’s politics but Steigerwald left that part out?

    1. What good would it do? Anyone with a brain already knows they are Democrats, the rest of them will just do their “Democrats were really Republicans then” song and dance.

      1. “I tag your TEAM with the racists!”

        “No, I tag your TEAM!”

        So. Fucking. Tiresome.

        1. Why, you’d lick a dog’s ass if he’d let you.

          1. I’m not gonna apologize for that!

        2. So an essay on a historic political book about new deal politics, the 1960 presidential race and school racial segregation shouldn’t mention which party the racist segregationists were?

          Especially when the whole point of the essay was about historical whitewashing??

          What the fuck epi?

          Can’t we talk about the actual subject of the actual article?

  4. I don’t care if it is fake. I like Travels With Charlie. It is a really entertaining book. A whole lot better than Grapes of Wrath, which is like a book from an alternative universe where Bruce Springsteen became a novelist.

    1. Just call it the original gonzo journalism, then all the fiction will be cool, not corrupt.

      1. Yeah I don’t hear anyone fact checking Hunter S. Thompson.

        1. So long as you read Thompson understanding that it’s mostly fiction, all is well.

          1. All reporting is fiction on some level.

            1. This is true, though I suppose there are some exceptions: Man shoots people in theater. People die. That’s fairly factual.

              In any case, it’s a sliding scale. If someone is seriously purporting to be delivering facts, though, I don’t want much fiction. . .especially about the facts.

              1. We think it’s all fiction because so many articles have the phrase, “According to police/officers/authorities” in them.

              2. He didn’t shoot those people. Someone else did.

                It’s the Chewbacca Obama defense!

                1. It’s the Chewbacca Obama defense!

                  There’s a Michelle joke in there somewhere but I just can’t quite put my finger on it.

                  1. my finger on it

                    Or in it, if you know what’s good for you.

            2. George McGovern himself once told me that Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 was the most “true” (if least factual) book about that campaign.
              Of course he stole that line from Frank Mankiewicz.

              1. Yeah, save the “But the narrative was true” for the little people. I mean literally, short people. I’m into them after my recent Dinklage marathon of Game of Thrones and The Station Agent. No homo.

                1. Claiming something is a “memoir” is one way to get second rate fiction published.

                  1. Book Publisher: I’m sorry to tell you this, sir, but nobody is ever going to publish your memoirs.

                    Towelie: Huh? Why not?

                    Book Publisher: Well, just the small trivial fact that people aren’t interested in autobiographies of TOWELS.

                    Towelie: Well, yeah, but maybe people will read my memoirs, and like?apply its lessons to their own lives.

                    Book Publisher: No, they won’t. Because they’re people. And you’re a towel.

                    Towelie: (mumbling) You’re a towel?

                    Book Publisher: No, I’m a big book publisher whose not the least bit interested in your stony memoirs. You’re a towel.

          2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was hilarious, true or not.

    2. Exactly. Travels with Charley is the only readable thing that Steinbeck ever wrote.

      1. I like about anything with a good dog in it. Charlie was a good dog. Big poodles get a bad name from their snappy annoying miniature cousins. But the big ones are real dogs.

        1. I use only them as my attack dogs, so that my victims get the added humiliation of being savaged by, you know, poodles.

          1. I had a friend in law school who was just a spoiled little bastard growing up. Him and his friends spent years torturing the big poodles raised by this gay couple in his neighborhood. Finally one Halloween the poodles got loose. And it was the poodle apocalypse for the little bastards. He still had a scar on his hand where one of them nailed him.

            And amazingly enough, his and his friends parents never demanded the dogs be put down and rightly put the blame on their bastard sons for teasing the dogs after being told not to. Different age.

            1. There’s no hatred like a dog’s hatred.

              1. They deserved it. I bet those poodles went to sleep content that night.

            2. “Poodle Apocaslypse” must find it’s way into everyday vernacular.

    3. john’s just mad cause the dem fascist sheriff didnt taze woody guthrie

    4. Oh please, The Grapes of Wrath is great light entertainment.

      It’s not meant to be read, it’s meant to be watched. :@

      1. You know, dude, for a second I thought you were cool enough to have posted this, but then I clicked through and remembered you’re more square than Warty’s anus.

        1. I will not be lectured on taste by someone who is obsessed with Robin Williams

          1. “Obsessed with” is a strong phrase. Perhaps “tormented by”?

          2. I contend that Robin Williams is the best Peter Pan in Hook, even better than Sandy Duncan on Broadway.

            What do you think of that?

              1. I’ll admit that I don’t actually think that and was just baiting you. I actually saw Sandy during her run; I was just a kid, but she was really good. Glass eye and all.

            1. You leave Sandy alone!!

              1. Not when a chick has a glass eye and an extra hole to diddle.

          3. is there anything worse on the face of the planet than Robin Williams acting?

            1. I find that I have it in for actors who have raped Asimov’s books. Smith and Williams being at the top of the list.

            2. Yeah, his standup when he isn’t on cocaine.

              1. But on coke–very funny. He needs more coke. You’d think he could afford it with all of the movies he’s made.

                1. He should just go back to being Mork.

                  1. Mork is due for a gritty re-boot. Like Battle for Los Angeles but with far, far more suspenders.

                    1. Already done, or have you forgotten the egg in ALIEN?

                    2. Did you just admit to watching Battle for LA?!?

                      They need to make it so that “Nanoo-nanoo” is as chilling a sound as the music from Psycho.

                    3. “Surgically removed before embryo implantation. Subject: Cunningham, RIchard C., died during the procedure.” They killed him taking it off.

                    4. No, not Richie. Chuck. It explains everything!

                    5. I didn’t say I watched it. I just think that giant Egg-Ships should destroy LA.

                    6. Ripley: But each one of these things comes from an egg, right? So who’s laying these eggs?
                      Bishop: I’m not sure. It must be something we haven’t seen yet.

                    7. “Yolk-ships on fire off the shoulder of Anaheim. I watched Hard-Boil-Beams glitter in the dark near Paramount Studios. All those moments will be lost in time, like whites in hippie omelets.”

                  2. He should just go back to being Mork.

                    Yeah, the Happy Days iteration where he only shows up once and then goes back to his hope planet of Ork.

              2. Just saw him narrate “Your Body on Drugs” last night. I was impressed how the girl who just smoked heroin assembled the bookcase perfectly within the allotted time. I was not the least bit surprised that the met smoker was done early and the thing fell apart immediately.

                1. met = meth

        2. Awesome link, Epi. I’m inspired to get my SCTV DVDs off the shelf.


            I miss John Candy.

    5. I don’t care if it is fake. I like Travels With Charlie.

      I am reading the Travels of Marco Polo right now and loving it…so I really cannot argue with you.

      On a side note: RR Martin really needs to be called out for not giving Marco Polo its due for how much it influenced his Game of Thrones books.

      1. History is the best fiction. You don’t need a plot. There is an endless supply of them in history.

  5. Steinbeck may be the most overrated writer of any era, Fitzgerald excluded. His writing is stilted and dull, with East Of Eden being the one great exception.

    Faulkner. Huxley. Bradbury. Hemingway.

    Steinbeck is a hack compared to these men.

    1. You call Steinbeck stilted and then praise Faulkner? Are you kidding me? Yeah lets write another two hundred word run on sentence describing two people sitting in a run down plantation in July sweating.

      1. Faulkner was 10x the writer Steinbeck was. Or maybe he just wasn’t such a whiny-ass advocate for griefer trolls like Steinbeck was.

        1. I agree with you that Faulkner was better. But God he was a tough read. I am not saying it didn’t take skill to write that stuff. But my God those novels are depressing. The only one that doesn’t make you want to take your own life is The Rievers. That one is pretty fun and almost unknown.

          1. Was it the Pearl where the baby has it’s head blown off? Yeah, great literature there.

            1. Yes. But Canery Row is fun. And as depressing as The Pearle is, it doesn’t even begin to touch a book like Absolum Absolum or As I Lay Dying for emotional power and pure bleakness. Faulkner was the much better writer of the two. So much better his books are damn near unreadable.

              1. I’d rather read Iron Man back issues.

      2. “You call Steinbeck stilted and then praise Faulkner? Are you kidding me?”

        And while we’re at it: Fuck Hemingway.

        Stunted excuse for prose and duller than dry paint, the only reason he’s remembered to this day is because people insist on giving him credit for other people’s writing styles. nd don’t get me started on his undue reputation as being a rugged individualist who supposedly embodied the American spirit despite his fishing trips with mass-murdering dictators and his love of Communist firing squads.

        His books and life philosophy could be succinctly summed up as, “Individualism at the bottom of a glass for me, Collectivism at the bottom of a gun barrel for You.”

        1. “Individualism at the bottom of a glass for me, Collectivism at the bottom of a gun barrel for You.”

          I like that.

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        2. Screw that–I like Hemingway.

    2. What? That title definitely goes to someone named Bronte if we’re talking English language. In America, I’d nominate David Brooks or Tom Friedman for any of their books as most overrated. So I guess you’re talking about most overrated decent author who can’t quite carry his own legend.

      1. I think to be “overrated” you have to be worthy of being rated. So clowns like Friedman don’t count even though by any objective measure Friedman is the worst writer ever to be published in the English language.

  6. My book, Travels With Charley in Search of America? I didn’t write that. Someone else made it happen.

      1. To steal from comic Stephen Wright: ‘That guy who wrote the A-B-C song – he wrote everything.’

    1. u mean like the somebody else who invented paper and the printing press?

      1. You see, this is where imbeciles like you get me all worked up, triple asshole. The inventor of the printing press and paper (which both have evolutionary histories as opposed to being “invented”) did nothing to make the book happen. They enabled it to be more widely distributed, but had absolutely zilch to do with the literary works.

        Perhaps you should take issue with the publisher that employed the use of printing presses and paper so he could distribute the book and make money. I wonder if the developer of the paper and presses he uses feel like they had a fair exchange of goods for an agreed-to sum.

        Besides, the publisher paid taxes that more than offset his use of the roads. The fucking griefer trolls out there bitching about inequality? Not so much.

        1. sloopy’s on a bridge too far

          1. I thought Obama didn’t really mean that tripple asshole?

  7. Turns out the dog wrote the book and Steinbeck had his head out the window for the entire trip.

    1. Shhhhhhh…

    2. This should be the thread winner.

  8. I wonder what Travels With Charlie would have been written like if Steinbeck would have gotten a $250 ticket in Hackensack, New Jersey for not having his dog harnessed and seat belted in?

  9. That’s one hell of an editor’s note.

    Also, anyone who has read The Grapes of Wrath already knows that Steinbeck is anything but impartial.

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  11. Ya know the problem with America? Nobody makes a decent, good looking watch for a reasonable price anymore.

    1. It’s all the fault of those iphones with their built-in clocks.

  12. Museum in Manhattan to read the first…..c-3_9.html draft of the book. The handwritten manuscript?along with a typed and edited copy?has been stored at the Morgan like the Ark of

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  15. Does anybody today actually READ “Travels With Charlie” anymore?

    I thought “Winter of Our Discontent” was Steinbeck’s last major novel. I liked Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden (his best), and many other Steinbeck works – read them all – but Winter of Our Discontent is pretty forgettable, although I read it about 50 years ago and still remember reading it even if I only remember that it was about some guy coming to terms with his suicidal thoughts or something.

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