Sunday, September 14, 2014

Five notably beguiling if unlikely travel books

Sean Wilsey is the author of a memoir, Oh the Glory of It All, and the co-editor with Matt Weiland of two collections of original writing: State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America, and The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup. His essay collection, More Curious, is published by McSweeney’s.

One of five beguiling if unlikely travel books Wilsey tagged for The Daily Beast:
Travels With Charley, by John Steinbeck. Two hundred years later an aging author and his poodle, Charley, light out on the back roads of America, in the fall of 1960, in a new GM pickup, stocked with “bourbon, scotch, gin, vermouth, vodka, a medium good brandy, aged applejack, and a case of beer.” The putative goal: to “rediscover this monster land.” In fact, unlike Casanova’s, this is a book to skim, full of dull passages, but occasionally enlivened by moments of vivid perception. Here is Steinbeck’s description of the fledgling interstate system: a “wide gash” where the minimum speed “was greater than any I had previously driven … You are bound to the wheel and your eyes to the car ahead and to the rear-view mirror for the car behind and the side mirror for the car or truck about to pass… When we get these thruways across the whole country… it will be possible to drive from New York to California without seeing a single thing.”
Read about another book on the list.

Travels With Charley is one of Philip Caputo's six favorite travel books.

--Marshal Zeringue