Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Wayward Bus

Steinbeck, John. 1947. The Wayward Bus. 272 pages.

For my third Steinbeck, I chose The Wayward Bus. This is an interesting--though not particularly charming--story of disgruntled individuals brought together by a seemingly-never-ending bus ride. While the book technically revolves around a bus ride, the focus of the story is more on the waywardness of the people. How each of Steinbeck's characters are unhappy each in their own way. The book examines humanity--up, close, and a bit too personal. Each character is distinct in that they all have their own issues, own back stories, own hopes and dreams. All are on the bus for different reasons. All are on different journeys. But they're all similar in that they are all dissatisfied with their lives. No one is living their dream life. No one is happy with what they have. All want something more, something better. Some are unhappy with themselves. Some are unhappy with their circumstances. Some just want to escape and start anew. A few just want to hear themselves talk. Some long for freedom. Some long for love. Some long for fame. Some just long for different--they're bored with the sameness of their life.

Who are the characters? There are Juan and Alice Chicoy, a miserably unhappy married couple. Juan is the bus driver. Alice runs the diner part of the gas station. Pimples "Kit" Carson. A young teenage hormone-driven boy. Norma, a mousy waitress with delusions of grandeur--her obsession of choice? Clark Gable. These four live and work at Rebel Corners. (Alice is not along for the trip. She's back home enjoying her solitude.) The passengers include a family of three on their way to Mexico--businessman, frigid wife, rebellious and lusty daughter, a traveling salesman, a tramp of a lady traveling under a false name, an old man who complains day in and day out who can't agree with anyone about anything. I think that about covers it. Unless I missed one or two silent ones.

The bus ties them all together. They're all on their way to somewhere else. But there are delays caused by weather and road conditions.

What is the book about? Love. Hate. Lust. Anger. Disappointment. Bitterness. Frustration. Insecurity. Addiction. Ambition. The book can almost be read as a series of vignettes. If you're a reader intrigued by humanity--if you read books for their insight on the human condition or the human psyche--then this one might be right for you. It's also an interesting snapshot of the times in which it was written. I think it would take another reading for me to fully get everything the book was trying to capture.

It is interesting to me--and I hope to you too--to see how cover images have chosen to capture what the book is about. Which of these covers is your favorite? Which one would make you want to read the book? I like the prettiness of this Penguin cover. But I think the black-and-white one shows the angst of the book better. The why-me-ness of it. I think the two with the man and woman (in the hay) capitalizes on the theory that sex sells... choosing to focus on one of the more 'sensational' and 'lusty' scenes in the book.

I liked the style of the book--gritty though it may be. I could almost visualize it.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Debi 7:42 AM  

Sheesh...I'd never even heard of this one before.

Zibilee 10:13 AM  

I'm with the first poster, I have never heard of this book before now! I also think I like the penguin cover the best. The others are kinda interesting to look at though.

Sandra 2:19 PM  

I've never taken any book seriously that had those half-dressed women on them, and I know it wasn't the author's choice. It sure brings back memories to see them again though. This and books like Cannery Row I haven't read because they are gritty, just not my my taste in reading. I wonder how they'd stack up by today's standards in writing. lol And I'm old now, they may not phase me any more. Thanks for reviewing it. if you were doing the Nobel Challenge, the Steinbeck books would count toward that-and they could use your reviews at the challenge site. Just a thought. I like the first two covers and the last one too myself. I think they capture loneliness and hard times pretty well.

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