Lines from Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley

This book by Steinbeck is for the most part a book of appreciations. The writer likes America, and until he encounters some racist white people in the South he likes Americans too.

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck

on taking notes

I suppose our capacity for self-delusion is boundless. I knew very well that I rarely make notes, and if I do I either lose them or can’t read them. p. 10

on being lost on road

…through my own efforts I am lost most of the time without any help from anyone.  p. 43


The sun was up when I awakened and the world was remade and shining. there are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colors and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I. The night fears and loneliness were so far gone that I cold hardly remember them.  p. 49

on going to church in Vermont

For some years now God has been a pal to us, practicing togetherness that causes the same emptiness a father does playing softball with his son. But this Vermont God cared enough about me to go to a lot of trouble kicking the hell out of me. He put my sins in a new perspective. Whereas they had been small and mean and nasty and best forgotten, this minister gave them some size and bloom and dignity.  p. 61


…we are a restless species with a very short history of roots, and those not widely distributed. Perhaps we have overrated roots as a psychic need. Maybe the greater urge, the deeper and more ancient is the need, the will, the hunger to be somewhere else.  p. 81

on being alone

Having a companion fixes you in time and that the present, but when the quality of aloneness settles down, past, present and future all flow together. A memory, a present event, and a forecast all equally present…the delicate shades of feeling, of reaction, are the result of communication, and without such communication they tend to disappear.  p. 106

on the wind in North Dakota

Because it was a wind strange to me, and therefore mysterious, it set up mysterious responses in me…To my certain knowledge, many people conceal experiences for fear of ridicule. How many people have seen or heard or felt something which so outraged their sense of what should be that the whole thing was brushed quickly away like dirt under a rug. p. 117

in the redwood forests of the northwest

From my earliest childhood I’ve felt that something was going on in the groves, something of which I was not a part. And if I had forgotten the feeling, I soon got it back.At night, the darkness is black–and there’s a breathing in the black, for these huge things that control the day and inhabit the night are living things and have presence, and perhaps feeling, and somewhere in deep-down perception, perhaps communication.

the desert

And always there are mysteries in the desert, stories told and retold of secret places in the desert mountains where surviving clans from an older era wait to re-emerge.  p. 163

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