Travels With Charley was fun to discuss! It brought some of us back to the past. At least 3 of us had the same old yellow-covered paperback we had read during the 1960s, when the book was published. Jennifer had an edition that included a different ending - the original ending that was edited out. She said she preferred the new ending.
Patty brought some information about John Steinbeck. She has been to the Steinbeck festival in Salinas, which is an annual event each August. Steinbeck is Patty's favorite American author (not to detract from her very favorite, Jane Austen).
There were 17 of us at the meeting. 6 were native Texans. Someone (sorry, I didn't note who) told the group that Steinbeck made an error in the book, and that Texas does not maintain the right to secede from the US but does have a legal clause allowing the state to divide into 5 separate states! (North, South East, West, and Central? [name that state!])
Interesting topics that came up in our discussion, aka why you need to be at the discussions to best enjoy the book club:
- Steinbeck noted in the book that the US was a "new" society, with urban sprawl starting, and the emphasis on cities declining. This hasn't changed too much but may be changing now that energy prices have become a consideration. Also, some small towns were deteriorating back then and still there are many ghost towns. Steinbeck noted a sort of new notice of ecological concerns, and of course now you won't mind if I use a capital G for Green. Thus, the US is still a new society, but it has evolved some in the last 40+ years.
- We discussed the differences between a trip and a journey. One idea was that a trip has a reason and somewhat of an itinerary, but a journey allows for a more open itinerary and the chance for adventure. A number of us shared some of the journeys we had taken, many when we were young. It was fascinating to imagine our friends taking these bold and adventurous trips!
- Regarding Steinbeck's visit to see his old friends at the bar in Salinas, we had a discussion about whether you can ever go back home. People had personal anecdotes about attempts to go back to places after leaving them. We also discussed the specific experience Steinbeck had.
- We discussed Steinbeck's viewpoint during this book and how it might have been related to his life. Some thought he seemed rather negative, and there was the aspect that he had set out on this journey in his late 50s after his doctor had told him something about his health. It is never mentioned what exactly was his health concern. Some of us guessed he had been told to stop smoking. We also guessed that if this was so, he might have done a little smoking during this trip - off by himself with only a dog for company, away from his wife and others who loved him.
Note: At the meeting, Frank recalled having seen a TV movie of Travels With Charley. He sent me an email to say that at the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) website, he found that there was a 60 minute made-for-television adaptation of TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY in 1968. The show only covered part of the book and was narrated by Henry Fonda.