|Some liar with a French poodle he probably stole from a loving family|
I spent a good part of my adult life hearing stories of the next literary liar who mislabeled fiction as memoir or journalism. And it seems the years have only broadened our insistence for complete and uncreative honesty. After reading about so called reality television, I can't help but think this has only gotten worse. If we're demanding television tell the truth, something must be off.
There are two important differences between Travels with Charley and the other works I mentioned above: storytelling and truth. Steinbeck was a master storyteller and crafted his tale around a central truth and a keen eye on his surroundings. Even if he took a plane around the country rather than traveling by truck and never talked to a single soul, that doesn't make the dialogue or observations in the book untrue. A skilled author can pull details out of his crack and invent a story; telling one that serves a deeper truth is not so easy. Maybe our worship of details at the expense of truth isn't new, but it's definitely more noticeable now. Here's hoping truth telling catches on. A friend at work who is a car guy asks me what I'm reading in the break room, and I usually lie, "It's a book about a truck." When he saw me reading Travels with Charley, he asked what it was about. "Actually, this one is about a truck." Of course, I was full of it.