History

‘Texas is a State of Mind’: How the Famed Quote by John Steinbeck Came to Be

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“Travels with Charley: In Search of America” was written by U.S. author John Steinbeck as a travelogue on a 1960 road trip throughout America made by him and his standard poodle, Charley. The author wrote the book upon realizing he had a desire to see his country face-to-face, so-to-speak. Considering he made a living writing about it, he wanted to experience it on a personal level. He referred to having a number of questions at the outset of his travels, chief being “What are Americans like today?” But, he discovered that he had worries about what he referred to as the “new America” he perceived. Yet from it, he gleaned a great sense of national pride, not the least of which was found in Texas, on which he wrote the famed quote, “Texas is a state mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.”

‘Texas is a State of Mind’: How the Famed Quote by John Steinbeck Came To Be

Photo: Flickr/Octubre CCC

Steinbeck told of his travels through America in a camper that was specially made for this trip, which he aptly named Rocinante, for Don Quixote’s horse (from the classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes). His journey commenced in Long Island, New York, and approximated the outer border of the U.S., from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, south into Salinas Valley in California (his birthplace), over to Texas, north through what is considered the Deep South, and then returning to New York. The total trip would encompass close to 10,000 miles.

‘Texas is a State of Mind’: How the Famed Quote by John Steinbeck Came To Be
Photo: Wikimedia

According to the author’s eldest son, Thom Steinbeck, the real reason his father had for making the trip was that he knew he was dying and he wanted to see America one final time. Saying that he was surprised his stepmom allowed his dad to make such a journey, Thom noted that his dad’s heart condition meant it was quite possible he could have passed at any time throughout the trip. A 50th-anniversary release of the book contained a new introduction to it which advised readers “it would be a mistake to take this travelogue too literally, as Steinbeck was at heart a novelist.”

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