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Listening to America with Clay Jenkinson

Listening to America aims to “light out for the territories,” traveling less visited byways and taking time to see this immense, extraordinary country with fresh eyes while listening to the many voices of America’s past, present, and future. Led by noted historian and humanities scholar Clay Jenkinson, Listening to America travels the country’s less visited byways, from national parks and forests to historic sites to countless under-recognized rural and urban places. Through this exploration, Clay and team find and tell the overlooked historical and contemporary stories that shape America’s people and places.
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Listening to America with Clay Jenkinson
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Nov 21, 2023

This week, Clay Jenkinson’s conversation with fellow Steinbeck scholar Russ Eagle of North Carolina about the relaunch of the Western Flyer, the boat that took Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts, Steinbeck’s wife Carol, and four others to the Sea of Cortez in the spring of 1940. After eighty years the Western Flyer has been completely refurbished and now takes its place as one of the principal attractions at Monterey, California. Ricketts was a marine biologist and one of Steinbeck’s best friends in life. Partly to help Ricketts (who was a mediocre businessman), partly to get away from his sudden celebrity after The Grapes of Wrath went viral, Steinbeck commissioned the boat, gathered the crew, and made his way with his fellow adventures to Baja California to collect specimens for Rickett’s lab in Monterey. Steinbeck’s marriage to his first wife Carol was coming apart at the time. He was completely exhausted after the flurry of concentration that led to the greatness of Grapes of Wrath. It was part science, part escape, part vacation, but it led to two books, The Sea of Cortez in 1941, and The Log of the Sea of Cortez ten years later.

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