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Driving Home: An American Journey [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Raban
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $29.95
Kindle Price: $12.79
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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

For more than thirty years, Jonathan Raban has written with infectious fascination about people and places in transition or on the margins, about journeys undertaken and destinations never quite reached, and, as an Englishman transplanted in Seattle, about what it means to feel rooted in America. Spanning two decades, Driving Home charts a course through the Pacific Northwest, American history, and current events as witnessed by “a super-sensitive, all-seeing eye. Raban spots things we might otherwise miss; he calls up the apt metaphors that transform things into phenomena. He is one of our most gifted observers” (Newsday).
Stops en route include a Missoula bar, a Tea Party convention in Nashville hosted by Sarah Palin, the Mississippi in full flood, a trip to Hawaii with his daughter, a steelhead river in the Cascades, and the hidden corners of his adopted hometown, Seattle. He deftly explores public and personal spaces, poetry and politics, geography and catastrophe, art and economy, and the shifts in various arenas that define our society. Whether the topic is Robert Lowell or Barack Obama, or how various painters, explorers, and homesteaders have engaged with our mythical and actual landscape, he has an outsider’s eye for the absurd, and his tone is intimate, never nostalgic, and always fresh.
Frank, witty, and provocative, Driving Home is part essay collection, part diary—and irresistibly insightful about America’s character, contradictions, and idiosyncrasies.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews


“The central work of Raban’s life might be described as an effort to determine what America is like … But along with that, the reader notes, big water draws from Raban a kind of genius for natural description.” —Thomas Powers, The New York Review of Books
“The Northwest should feel itself lucky to have found a writer as fabulous—filled to overflowing with stories, meaning, and insight—as the landscape itself demands … It has been one of the great pleasures of the past twenty years to watch Raban discover this landscape for himself … to see [it] and its people with a clarify unmatched by most natives.” —Charles Petersen, Barnes and Noble review

"Raban [here] showcases his craftsmanship as a writer and his bona fides as an intellectual.  Every word is impeccably chosen, every metaphor meticulously selected.... [His] virtues are a writer are virtually unrivaled when it comes to explaining our relationships with landscapes and nature, and he's unrivaled, period, when describing water in all its forms, be it a placid puddle or a storm-swirled sea." —Phil Campbell, Columbia Journalism Review

"Driving Home could easily have been titled The Jonathan Raban Reader, as the brisk, smartly crafted pieces are just that representative of [his] long and illustrative writing life....By combining them in one volume, Raban offers a lively stew of topics, themes that most interest the British citizen turned Seattleite, subjects that get him the most excited and riled....Readers have long been drawn to Raban for the elegance of his language and the eloquence of his thought and can expect to find the same in these essays." —Deborah Gwartney, The Oregonian

"This Englishman in America is weird, unfettered, scruffy and alive....Mr.  Raban's best writing, which is most of it, is succulent under a crusty exterior, like a fish baked in salt.  His stuff is yet more proof that Britons are better travel writers and essayists than Americans:  drier, funnier, more argumentative."
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"Raban knows that the best essayist trusts in drift and digression and habitually adds a literary trill.  He is an erudite but adaptable companion, tart and genial, promiscuous in experience yet reliable in temperament....He conjures with his new home, with the Pacific Northwest, with history, poetry, geography, catastrophe...subjects Raban circumnavigates with finesse, shrugging off the obvious and regularly landing us on a shore we can't quite glimpse from here."
—Stacy Schiff, The New York Times Book Review

“A collection of essays about America and Americana . . . full of ideas that move through the language with the grace of a well-captained sailboat . . . Throughout, Raban reveals the traits that have long endeared him to his readers: a curiosity about the quirkiness of people and places, a ferocious love for the land, an elegance (but never pretentiousness) of style, self-deprecation, and an unusual ability to inhabit the imaginations of his interlocutors.”
—Kirkus Reviews
“A delight . . . [Raban] stands detached from cant and superficiality, which is perhaps a prerequisite for the striking originalities and aperçus with which he leavens every article.”

“It takes a passionate history buff to note how many of America’s virtues and vices have been present since independence and before, and a skilled raconteur to make us feel that passion.”
—The Sunday Times
“Teems with acerbic humor, but it contains, too, a wealth of astute cultural and historical observation of the Pacific Northwest [as well as] one of the finest examples of the reporting of a natural disaster ever published . . . Relentlessly intelligent . . . Erudite, witty, and combative.”
—The Guardian
“Raban writes about water in the way that Barry Lopez writes about snow or Wilfred Thesiger wrote about sand: it’s not always in the foreground of his observation, but you can sense his natural element in his whole way of seeing. Water seems to ebb and eddy through his prose, giving it its saltiness and flow.”
—The Observer
“These essays [display] the full force of Raban’s remarkable talent, infused with the profound intellectual ease and quiet authority that only a writer with as much steadying ballast of good work as Raban has could muster.”
—The Evening Standard

About the Author

Jonathan Raban is the author, most recently, of the novels Surveillance and Waxwings; his nonfiction includes Passage to Juneau and Bad Land. His honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/West Creative Nonfiction Award, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, and the Governor’s Award of the State of Washington. He lives in Seattle.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1685 KB
  • Print Length: 513 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0307379914
  • Publisher: Pantheon (September 13, 2011)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004KPM22K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #803,991 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A LEISURELY RIDE HOME WITH A GOOD DRIVER October 3, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The subtitle of Jonathon Raban's book, DRIVING HOME, "an American journey," is somewhat misleading. We readers travel along as he gives broader view to our normal image of driving home with global stories about existing and traveling. Along the way he picks up numerous luminaries, some living and others long dead, and proceeds to comment on their lives and purpose as we go along. He reflects on what values, if any, they bring with them and offers his opinion of where we've all been and where we're likely to end up. In short, he takes the long way home.

Driving home is a metaphor for the settled life. It's a trip we probably make thousands of times over the years. It's a predictable and comfortable routine during which we see the same streets, make the same turns, dodge the same kids, and drive into the same garage that needs a good cleaning. There's a sense of relaxation as we walk through the front door, perhaps to the fragrance of fresh baked goods. Raban has taken that image from a piece of chocolate cake and glass of cold milk to an intricate multi-layered wedding cake accompanied by a flute of Dom Perignon.

Examples of his circuitous route include a retelling of Sir Ernest Shackleton's "white warfare" assault on Antarctica and an account about Donald Crowhurst's deceitful actions during an around the world race. We're told about Seattle's class residency where young über millionaires rule. A modern whale hunt is described featuring the views of both the hunters and "save the whale" advocates...the whale's opinion is the only one missing. Sarah Palin, Mark Twain, Robert Lowell, Barack Obama, and Sir Francis Chichester, along with many others, are jammed into Raban's bus with us as we make the drive home. It's crowded but does it work?
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven Essays November 30, 2011
This collection of essays by travel writer Jonathan Raban has some very strong articles that are among his best, most often having to do with water. In Mississippi Water, for example, Raban revisits many of the places, now ravaged by flood, that he first visited in in 1979 for his book Old Glory : A Voyage Down the Mississippi

The current book shows many of Raban's strengths as a writer and travel companion. If you haven't read him before, this book could serve as a sampler. But overall, the book is a disappointment compared to his earlier books, like Old Glory, Bad Land, Hunting Mister Heartbreak and a Passage to Juneau, which for the most part were organized around a theme.

I am a little puzzled because contained within this collection are enough pieces to cobble together a book on Raban's adopted city of Seattle. It seems like a quarter to a third of the pieces are about the Pacific Northwest, but they are scattered throughout the collection. With a little reworking these could have been made into a serviceable, more focused book.

Also, and I say this as someone who probably agrees with Raban on a lot of political issues, the political pieces in here, many pretty recent, already seem dated, even simplistic. And he actually seems to seek out crazy eccentrics to support his view of the US swinging far right.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Seattle's Best Essayist June 24, 2014
Sometimes we need an outsider to give voice to what we take for granted and Raban is that clear voice from England settling contentedly, we must presume, in Seattle going on 25 years now and continuing to celebrate the mostly good in this nature-hugged city on the sound. It would be presumptuous of me to say any more than: read this book. You will not be disappointed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars December 8, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great read.
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