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review 2017-07-18 22:09
The Log from the Sea of Cortez
The Log from the Sea of Cortez - John Steinbeck

Late, late in the night we recalled that Horace says fried shrimps and African snails will cure a hangover. Neither was available.

I called a stop to this @ 63%. I skim read to the end to see if the log ever changes into something that has a structure - or a point.


It may be that I am not in the right mood for this book, but from everything I have read, I get the impression that to be in the right frame of mind to read this book I would have to be on that boat, with a beer (not the first of the day), and develop a sudden liking for pointless meandering, unsubstantiated general philosophising, and killing things just to collect them. 


And I just can't.

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text 2017-07-18 16:33
Reading progress update: I've read 32%.
The Log from the Sea of Cortez - John Steinbeck

This is nowhere near as interesting as I first thought. :(

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text 2017-07-17 22:27
Reading progress update: I've read 17%.
The Log from the Sea of Cortez - John Steinbeck

The medical kit had been given a good deal of thought. There were nembutal, butesin picrate for sunburn, a thousand two-grain quinine capsules, two-percent mercuric oxide salve for barnacle cuts, cathartics, ammonia, mercurochrome, iodine, alcaroid, and, last, some whisky for medicinal purposes. This did not survive our leave-taking, but since no one was ill on the whole trip, it may have done its job very well.

Steinbeck cracks me up. Here we have a book about a scientific expedition but he still injects some fun in it. So far, the science bits have been speculation and conjecture, but at the end of the day, Steinbeck was more of a poet than a marine biologist. Unlike Thoreau, tho, he knows it, too,

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review 2017-07-05 04:51
Review: America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction
America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction - Jackson J. Benson,Susan Shillinglaw,John Steinbeck

America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction is two different books. One is Steinbeck's final book, a collection of essays published in 1966 entitled America and Americans. In this slender volume, Steinbeck's thoughts on the state of America were originally paired with photographs by acclaimed photographers such as Ansel Adams, Gordon Parks, and Alfred Eisenstaedt (these photos do not accompany later editions).

The other book here is the Selected Nonfiction. Many people are unaware that throughout Steinbeck's career, the author was a prolific writer of short pieces of nonfiction. He published several hundred essays on a wide variety of topics. America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction includes fifty four of these essays.

Together, all these various pieces feel disjointed. Part of the problem was Steinbeck himself. Despite persistent views that Steinbeck was this or was that, he was an individual who chose not to become any one thing. He did not subscribe to a particular ideology and all that came with it. So, while Steinbeck may have been extremely far left leaning in some areas, he was very conservative in others. While he may have been very cultured, he was also very domestic. While he could be secular, he was also religious. Steinbeck was no one particular thing. As such, he succeeded in being offensive to a very large percentage of the populace. The same man who complains about the evil capitalism of the American corporation praises the American military in Korea and Vietnam for being above reproach. From one essay to the next, the result can be dizzying.

Those who've read Steinbeck extensively as I have will recognize many of the pieces. Selections from some of Steinbeck's published books such as The Harvest GypsiesA Russian JournalOnce There Was a War, and The Log from the Sea of Cortez are present. Also here are a relatively small selection of those pieces Steinbeck published in various magazines from the 1930s through the 1960s.

There's nothing spectacular here, though there are moments here and there when Steinbeck shines. Particularly, I think of his chapter in America and Americans called “Created Equal” where he addressed the plight of the descendants of African slavery in a rather open-minded and forward-thinking way for a white man of his era. There's also nothing too surprising here, though, as I implied earlier, some of Steinbeck's views are jarring.

America and Americans and Selected Nonfiction is a Steinbeck book for the Steinbeck die hard. Casual readers of Steinbeck will likely grow bored of the book before reaching the end. Myself, I found some selections fascinating, some tedious, but most were little more than clever observations by an astute mind.

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review 2017-06-07 14:17
Travels with Charley
Travels With Charley: In Search of America - John Steinbeck

In the fall and early winter of 1960, John Steinbeck packed up a camper-converted pickup truck and along with his dog went in search of America.  Travels with Charley finds Steinbeck making a round trip around the United States with his dog, the titular Charley, looking to rediscover the voice, attitude, and personality of the characters he peoples his fictional work with.  Yet like all journeys this one takes unexpected turns that the author doesn’t see coming.


Save prearranged meetings with his wife in Chicago and then in Texas for Thanksgiving, Steinbeck and his loyal canine Charley traverse various sections looking to get back in-touch with other Americans that he’s missed by flying over or traveling abroad.  Quickly though Steinbeck learns that the uniqueness of speech and language was beginning to disappear into a standardize English in many sections of the country.  He finds the Interstate and Superhighway system a gray ribbon with no color in comparison to state roads that show color and local character of the area.  And his amazement about how towns and cities have begun to sprawl losing local character as they became mini-versions of New York or Los Angeles which includes his own home town in the Salinas valley, highlighting the changes the country had occurred to the nation during his life time alone by 1960.


Yet Travels with Charley isn’t gloom or despair, Steinbeck writes about the national treasure that is the various landscapes around the country that help give locals their own personality even in the face of “standardizing”.  His interactions with people throughout his trip, whether friendly or hostile, give the reader a sense of how things remain the same yet are changing in the United States at the time of Steinbeck’s trip.  But Steinbeck’s interactions and observations of this travel companion Charley are what make this book something that is hard to put down.  Whether it’s Charley’s excitement to explore that night’s rest stop or Steinbeck’s amazement at Charley’s nonchalance at seeing a towering redwood or Steinbeck’s concern over Charley’s health or Charley’s own assessment of people, Steinbeck’s prose gives Charley character and lets the reader imagine the old dog by their side wherever they’re reading this book.


Written later in the author’s career, the reader is given throughout the entire book the elegance of Steinbeck’s prose that embeds what he his writing about deep into one’s subconscious.  Though there is debate about how much of Travels with Charley is fiction or if an individual is a composite of several others or even if events are ordered correctly, what the reader learns is that Steinbeck’s journey is unique to himself as theirs would be unique for them as well.


Written almost 60 years ago Travels with Charley details a changing America through the eyes of one of its greatest authors, even today some of Steinbeck’s passages resonate with us in today’s cultural and political climate.  But if like me you wanted a book by Steinbeck to get to know his style and prose than this is the book to do so.

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