http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/navtej_sarna/article1818739.ece – There are places, says Steinbeck, “where fable, myth, preconception, love, longing, or prejudice step in and so distort a cool, clear appraisal that a kind of high-colored magical confusion takes permanent hold. Greece is such an area, and those parts of England where King Arthur walked….And surely Texas is such a place.” Charley and his antics, his French-gentleman breeding which makes him believe that “humans are nuts”, his prostatitis and his hilarious encounter with a vet nursing a hangover get ample play in the journey and its touching to see Steinbeck conducting conversations with the dog on matters such as the search for roots. (“He listened but he didn’t reply.”)

Charley fortunately “doesn’t belong to a species clever enough to split the atom but not clever enough to live in peace with itself.”    

Particularly enchanting is the wisdom about travel and travel writing that is strewn casually about. Each journey, Steinbeck believes, is like a person; with an individuality and temperament that is impossible to control and bind down with schedules and reservations. “We do not take a trip,” he says “a trip takes us.” Many trips continue in the mind long after movement in space and time has ceased; others leave us “without warning, or good-by or kiss my foot” while we are still stranded far from home. Steinbeck’s trip ended for him while he was still in Virginia; from then on the “road became a stone ribbon, the hills obstructions, the trees green blurs, the people simply moving figures with heads but no faces.” Steinbeck confesses he kept few notes about his journey and is surprised to find some scribblings bound on a ketchup bottle with a rubber band. The large macrocosm of the land is the macrocosm of himself; to anybody else it would be different. External reality is not so external; it depends on whose eye surveys it. Each person brings home a different city, a different journey, a different truth. “So much there is to see, but our morning eyes describe a different world than do our afternoon eyes, and surely our wearied evening eyes can report only a weary evening world.”