“Dogging Steinbeck,” in case you are among the 318,543,866 Americans who haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, is a new genre I’m trying to popularize called “True Nonfiction.”
Half literary expose and half American road book, “Dogging Steinbeck” is the honest and accurate account of my long journey with the great John Steinbeck and his beloved work of BS, “Travels With Charley.”
It details how I discovered the truth about Steinbeck’s iconic 1960 road trip with his dog Charley and how I exposed the fraudulent nature of the allegedly nonfiction book Steinbeck wrote about his journey.
As I explain and prove at length, “Charley” is not very true or honest. It’s mostly fiction and a few lies. For every true thing you want to know about Steinbeck’s trip, my trip and his book without having to fork over a lousy $5.99 for “Dogging Steinbeck,” I’d advise going to TruthAboutCharley.com.
My book, which I swear is 103 percent true, is a literary detective story, a traditional American road book and a primer in drive-by journalism and how the media work. All from a libertarian point of view.
It’s also part history lesson of 1960 America, part book review, part Steinbeck bio and part indictment of the negligence of Steinbeck scholars who failed to discover Steinbeck’s literary deceit for 50 years and then blithely excused it as inconsequential or irrelevant after I told them about it.
Guess I should have included footnotes.
But a lot of people — especially young and/or romantic diehard “Charley” fans — don’t appreciate me for ruining the romance of Steinbeck’s flawed book. Just look at the dumb 1-star reviews on Amazon.
But sorry, Steinbeckies, what I did with my humble work of journalism has changed the way “Travels With Charley” will be read forevermore.
In the fall of 2012 the book’s publisher, Penguin Group, issued a 50th anniversary edition of “Travels With Charley” that admitted that what I had learned and exposed was correct — as in “the truth.”
“Charley’s” introduction, first written by Steinbeck biographer Jay Parini in 1997, from now on will contain a major disclaimer warning gullible readers that the famous book they are about to read is so full of fiction and fictional techniques that it should not be taken literally or considered to be a work of nonfiction. In layman’s terms, it should be considered a work of bullshit.
Parini’s disclaimer includes this stark sentence: “It should be kept in mind, when reading this travelogue, that Steinbeck took liberties with the facts, inventing freely when it served his purposes, using everything in the arsenal of the novelist to make this book a readable, vivid narrative.”
I wasn’t given credit for this discovery of this ugly truth. I was identified only as a former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter who did some light “fact-checking” (and made lazy fools of the Steinbeck scholars).
But at least from now on no 14-year-old who reads Steinbeck’s classic road book will ever be tricked into thinking it’s a true story. I hope.