Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck Reviewed by Steve Rudd
People don't take trips - trips take people.
It's almost impossible, in this day and age, to not have heard of John Steinbeck.
First and foremost, his Of Mice And Men short story is the staple part of almost every school
curriculum, while his Grapes of Wrath novel is equally as well-known.
Steinbeck was born and raised in the Salinas area of California, and most of his
books were set in such an area, including the beautifully captivating Pastures of Heaven.
Travels With Charley is somewhat unique for the fact that he spends very little time in the Golden 'fornia State, because this book is essentially of the travel variety, which intimately recounts some of the places and faces that he encountered when he took an around-country tour of the vast United States of America back in the early Sixties - not many years before the genius died in 1968.
He said that he wanted to go and rediscover his country, to see how much it had changed since he had last travelled around the beast - and how fast it was changing and hurtling headlong into the future. And he didn't travel alone either, but far from taking his wife along for the ride, it was his pet poodle that saddled up on the passenger side. Yes, his poodle was the charming Charley of the title.
I stopped where people stopped or gathered, I listened and looked and felt, and in the process had a picture of my country the accuracy of which was impaired only by my own shortcomings.
Whether John and Charley are slowly ebbing around New England in all its glory or casually cruising through North Dakota, Steinbeck is always openly honest and sincere in his writing.
Long before Bill Bryson set out around the USA in much the same manner, here was Steinbeck putting his foot to the gas and gunning around the country, closely observing what it is to be an American, and to what extent the nature of people and places vary over time and space.
Sure, Steinbeck doesn't burn back and forth and back again across the States with the crazily
overwhelming intensity that Kerouac did when he was On The Road, but Steinbeck's
revelations are just as profoundly exciting and engrossing.
Still, towards the end of John's journey, it seems that all he wants to do is get back home.
The United States at large are too huge to feel like home.
Home, as far as he is passionately concerned, is literally where the heart is,
and thus once he finally arrives back outside his house and parks up his truck -
that he named Rocinante for the trip, after Don Quixote's horse - for the last time, he seems the most content.
Through his Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck genuinely proved that he was fantastic at writing not only fiction but non-fiction too. God bless him, and his eternally humane soul.
Reviews, Books - Fiesta by Ernest Hemingway Reviewed by Steve Rudd
No, I wasn't naïve enough to be fooled into thinking that this exquisite novel from the legendary Hemingway was an in-depth car manual designed to accompany the latest Ford creation.
Far from it, in fact, for this story follows a bunch of friends who travel from Paris to Spain, and to the town of Pamplona in particular to witness the bull-running and -fighting events of the infamous
Reviews, Theatre - June 6-11th - The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare and Sweet William by Alan Plater. Northern Broadsides Company at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough by Patrick Henry
These two works played in a week of repertory constitute essentially company productions,
without star actors nor prominent leading characters, giving all-round strength to the
enterprise, but also some weaknesses.
It is absorbing to watch how the actors from the classic comedy are deployed in the cast
of the new Plater piece.
Reviews, Books - Swan Song by Robert Edric Reviewed By Nick Quantrill
Swan Song is the third and final part of Robert Edric's cycle trilogy. Although Edric does not describe himself as crime-fiction writer per-se, he skilfully demonstrates the strength of the genre. Although crime-fiction is generally criticised for not being literary enough, Edric uses it as a vehicle with which to explore contemporary society.
Reviews, Books - The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth Reviewed by Steve Rudd
So, The Phantom of The Opera is perhaps one of the best-known stories in the world, but how many
of you good people realised that a sequel to the story has actually been written - and has been
kicking around for some years now - by the one and only Frederick Forsyth?
The original, horrifying Phantom of The Opera story was penned by Frenchman Gaston Leroux, but the world at
Reviews, Books - The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac Reviewed by Steve Rudd
He doesn't need any money... all he needs is his rucksack.
There really was no end to Jack's writing talents after all! This is the fifth book of his that I've had the pleasure of reading, and it is by far and away my favourite.
When you get to the top of a mountain, keep climbing.
Packed with all the excitement of his classic masterpiece On The RoadRead more...
Reviews, Books - I'm a Teacher Get Me Out of Here by Francis Gilbert (Short Books) Reviewed By Cathy Walker
As I am about to change career to become a primary school teacher, I picked up
I'm A Teacher Get Me Out Of Here with a little trepidation. I'd heard that it presents the
reality of working in a 'tough school', of what a hard and challenging job being a teacher truly is.
I can't wait to become a teacher and I didn't want
Reviews, Events - Nights Out - Tuesday 24th May 05 - Benny Hill Preservation Society By Adam Atkinson
My utter fascination with all things Benny started as early as the age of three, when I by
chance happened upon some irrelevant sketch involving the Benster dressed as a cardiac
surgeon examining some saucy minx. 12 years later I would see my own Uncle Frank arrested for the very same thing.
Reviews, Books - In The Winter Dark by Tim Winton Reviewed by Steve Rudd
A menacing short story from the ever-interesting Australian writer Tim Winton,
this is a thrilling venture into dark and macabre territory that focuses on a few
people who live in a secluded valley that seems to also be inhabited by a mysterious
creature that preys both on their animals and their worst fears.
Reviews, Books - The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan Reviewed by Steve Rudd
First published way, way back in 1915, this is the story that inspired the infamous movie of
the same name that was directed by the king of noir, old Alfred Hitchcock.
I have it on good authority that the film version does in fact differ to quite a large extent to this novel, but what the hell.
I can't imagine the book being any less suspenseful or tense
Reviews, Books - Junky by William S. Burroughs Reviewed by Steve Rudd
Where to start with a man of William's legendary literary standing?
Born in 1914, in his own time he came to be regarded as one of the most
important American writers of the Sixties Beat generation - during which
time his writing was revered in the same way that the work of
Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg was.
Reviews, Books - The Long Rain by Peter Gadol Reviewed By Steve Rudd
After I had walked around the winery, I climbed back in my truck and continued driving farther up
into the foothills, and some nights I did make it as far as the mountain road.
I wanted to cross the Diablo range.
I wanted to keep driving clear across the state and into the desert, deep into the American
vastness, where I knew no one and no one knew me.
Reviews, Books - Goodbye, Hessle Road by Daphne Glazer Reviewed By Cathy Walker
Goodbye Hessle Road is the new novel by local writer Daphne Glazer, set in and around Hull.
It focuses on the lives of Donna, her mum and grandmother Ruby and features many local landmarks
from the leafy suburbs of the Avenues to the inside of Hull Prison.
Donna is a drugs worker at Hull prison; she is portrayed as a strong woman, with
attitude and hidden vulnerability.
Reviews, Books - Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink by Tom Miller Reviewed by Steve Rudd
I have long longed to visit the South-Western states of the USA, and the beautifully majestic Arizona in particular.
In this fascinating and factual book, Tom - who himself lives in Tucson, Arizona - recounts
all sorts of weird and wonderful tales from the region, and also presents tall tales from