Saturday, January 4, 2014

Roads, by Larry McMurtry

The Friday after Christmas, I bought a copy of Roads: Driving America's Great Highways at Idle Times Books in Adams-Morgan. By Wednesday, I had recommended the book to three friends.

It is a short book full of long, high-speed drives, for example Duluth to Archer City, Texas, in two quick days. Here and there I found myself recalling Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the remark that from a car you see the landscape through the windshield, as on a TV screen; on a motorcycle you are in the landscape.  Wright Morris in The Cloak of Light: Writing My Life wrote of  himself as a compulsive driver, starting early and continuing late; but driving twenty years before the interstates were built, he traveled much more slowly, and stayed in towns and ate at diners not yet homogenized. McMurtry writes of 800 mile days at the wheel.

It is McMurtry's remarks on the places he knows well make the book worth reading. I bought it in part from the memory of a book review that quoted some incisive remarks about Washington, DC. What he has to say about northern Michigan, Los Angeles, Texas, and New Mexico--places I have never been--also caught my eye. The book is of the sort that one can take up and dip into for ten minutes' reading when ten minutes are all that one has.

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