A Dutch journalist, with strong opinions about the US, recreates Steinbeck’s famous 1960 roadtrip, with results both painful and amusing
About a quarter of the way through this rambling, thoughtful, and often funny motorist’s-eye view of the US, Dutch journalist Geert Mak makes a startling admission. The book, conceived as a companion volume to John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley, turns out not to have been quite as conceptually original as its author might have hoped: he is sharing his 50th anniversary road trip, he learns, with a coterie of other writers, including reporters from the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun and a libertarian “who runs a website for dog-lovers”.
Indeed, the writers all set off on the same day Steinbeck did in his book, and from the same place: Sag Harbor, New York, on 23 September. “If we’d taken the ferry to the mainland an hour sooner,” Mak writes of the libertarian, Bill Steigerwald, “I would no doubt have bumped into him on the deck, notebook in hand like me.” Eventually, Mak reassures himself about the project, which he admits was always “too obvious not to be picked up by someone else”.
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