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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riding in a car with Bill
I've been a fan of Bill Barich ever since I read his wonderful racing book Laughing in the Hills in The New Yorker. Unlike so many writers, he seems never to repeat himself, and his new book Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America is every bit as incisive and entertaining as all the others.

While living in Dublin, Barich found an old copy of...
Published on October 29, 2010 by Bob Royer

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On the Road
"Long Way Home" chronicles Bill Barich's 2008, cross-country, westbound drive across US 50, the cement spine of his native country- through Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, before breaking from US-50 for Nevada and California.

His journey began innocently enough: while living in Dublin with his second wife...
Published on November 8, 2010 by F. Tyler B. Brown


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On the Road, November 8, 2010
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"Long Way Home" chronicles Bill Barich's 2008, cross-country, westbound drive across US 50, the cement spine of his native country- through Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, before breaking from US-50 for Nevada and California.

His journey began innocently enough: while living in Dublin with his second wife Imelda, Barich spots a paperback version of John Steinbeck's "Travels With Charley" in a second-hand bookshop. Steinbeck's book awakes in Barich an ambition of his youth: to travel across the United States, as Steinbeck did, and to capture in words the country before him.

"Steinbeck used the term vacilando to describe a certain kind of wandering," Barich writes, "`If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere but doesn't care greatly whether or not he gets there...'"

Many of Barich's earlier works are well-heeled vacilando pamphleteering, powerful stump speeches for this certain kind of experience: "A Fine Place to Daydream", "Big Dreams", "Traveling Light", "A Pint of Plain".

In a "Long Way Home", Barich displays again his vacilando tendencies with a poetic splendor. Barich demonstrates that he, like Steinbeck, is part of an underground brotherhood of romantic writer-travelers, whom walk slowly, look, breathe deep, and record clearly.

Unlike these earlier works, however, Barich's newest installation is a different kind of travel book. In "Long Way Home", Barich is not wandering new, mysterious lands: the Irish countryside, the Californian coast, or an undiscovered emerald-blue trout stream. "A Long Way Home" is, as its title might suggest, a homecoming. It is a journey of hopeful rediscovery.

Barich embarks on this journey, first, as a "displaced Californian" and expat, who while living in Dublin, has lost touch with his native land. America for Barich had grown into a hazier concept. Almost a decade of expatriate life with his second wife, Imelda, had created between Barich and his homeland a benign separation, which the aging author hoped to bridge with his pen.

This book is Barich's attempt to recapture a sense of the land he left behind. His attempt at salvation seems at times like an absent husband trying to save a doomed marriage five years too late. Barich, like Steinbeck, is at times quickly disenchanted with the heartland.

Barich falls into the trap of making a series of lazy observations about his native land, that sound almost cliche they are so well represented: Americans like to hunt, eat big portions, are suffering from cultural depravity, are besot with debt and far more goods than they can consume, are losing the frontier spirit, and so on. Barich, though, has thankfully not lost his more discerning eye, and fills "Long Way Home" with more memorable portraits of his fellow countrymen and women.

Barich's journey ends in a place out of which it was born: California. As a young, struggling writer, Barich lived in a small trailer tucked away amidst a vineyard in Alexander Valley. Of his latest return, Barich writes, "Insofar as anywhere qualified as my home, San Francisco probably was it."

On the edge of the Pacific, the reader cannot help but to be left sad- wishing he could travel longer and further, to more places, through the America heartland, or anywhere, with Barich.

Barich's observations- romantic, achingly beautiful, full of compassion- beg in the reader the hope for more experience, more sights, sounds, smells, and taste; but alas, we are left hanging, like a panting dog over an empty water bowl, wondering where Bill will head next? Regardless of where it may be, I hope he will let me travel along.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riding in a car with Bill, October 29, 2010
This review is from: Long Way Home (Kindle Edition)
I've been a fan of Bill Barich ever since I read his wonderful racing book Laughing in the Hills in The New Yorker. Unlike so many writers, he seems never to repeat himself, and his new book Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America is every bit as incisive and entertaining as all the others.

While living in Dublin, Barich found an old copy of Travels With Charley that made him nostalgic for the American heartland, and he decided to undertake a trip similar to Steinbeck's, almost fifty years later, to see how the country looked to him after being abroad for so long.

Barich does a great job of talking to all sorts of people and uncovering nuggets of information about the places he stops. I particularly enjoyed the way he talked to folks from all walks of life, everyone from barbers to policy makers. He's a good listener and has a good sense of humor. He is a seasoned observer of his country.

As when Steinbeck was taking his trip, Barich is travelling across the country at a great turning point in its history - the point still turning as we read the book.

Reading Barich is like riding in a car with him, off to some park for a walk or perhaps with an idea of dropping a fly along a piece of slack water against a stone wall where you know a fish is waiting for just that fly.

His voice is quiet, he's thoughtful about what he says and candid about his keen observations. He's a guy you could like.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Must have written some good books, but this is not one of them, February 21, 2011
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I am typically attracted to travelogues and the like, and so I bought this book not knowing much about it or about Barich.

Some of his other books have earned raves, and the likes of Frank McCourt have offered praise. So I took a risk, and I was disappointed.

In short, I got the feeling that Barich owed his book publisher one more book under a contract, so he set out on a cross-country drive, wrote down his not-too-interesting observations along the way and called it "contract fulfilled."

The Steinbeck element is a ruse at best. Barich often goes 20-30 pages without mentioning Steinbeck or "Travels with Charley." Occasionally, he seems to wake up and reminds himself to throw in some words to someone keep the tie-in together -- more often than not noting that Steinbeck was more bitter about the US than people tend to think.

So we get book where he travels across the country, stopping in hotels and restaurants along the way and offering us his descriptions. Big deal. His insights lack any unusual (or unread) views into the state of the country. He certainly seems to lean Democratic and cannot seem to fathom how people could think otherwise. He takes predictable swipes at the ex-Governor of Alaska.

He struck me as arrogant at times, which is perhaps unfair. But he often took an "I know best" tone and barely concealed his opinion that many of the people with whom he came into contact were simpletons (and I live on Long Island, not in the Midwest, so I personally was not offended).

Barich can write; that much is clear. And the last chapter or so really do demonstrate his writing prowess. Alas, most of the book was just plain boring.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not enough "there" there, April 8, 2012
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This review is from: Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America (Hardcover)
It would be improper to note that Barich is not Steinbeck; no one is or was. However, the tagline "On the Trail of Steinbeck's America" leads one to believe the book offers some true connection with the great author, either in a replication of his celebrated transcontinental journey or in reasoned insights that relate the work to the present. To be fair, the author does make an effort at the latter, although as some have already noted, the connections seem forced or randomly inserted into the narrative. Additionally, the encounters with characters and towns along the route seem strictly journalistic and one-dimensional. All of this meant to me that the book didn't deliver what I had hoped it would. It is an interesting book, overall, but it lacks the literary dimensions to make it a great book. I simply expected more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Follow-Up to Steinbeck's Journeys, December 30, 2010
By 
Dennis Koga (Vancouver, WA United States) - See all my reviews
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As someone who's always maintained a special place in my heart for "Travels with Charley", I viewed the wide variance in posted reviews as a reason for concern. However, the Kindle sample whetted my appetite just enough to justify the full download, and I'm glad I did.

The book does not seek to follow the actual route undertaken by Steinbeck but instead, attempts to glimpse some of the same aspects of life in America that caught both writers's attention. Experiences are related with insight, awareness, a little humor whenever possible, and (above all) the perspective of someone returning to the country of his birth and attempting to understand some of its myriad contradictions, qualities, problems and circumstances. While politics does occasionally come into play, it is not the focal point of the book, in spite of what other reviewers here have commented on...and while Steinbeck might have been more successful at masking his personal political leanings, Barich uses his perspective to base his outrage over actual/perceived wrongs to powerful effect.

In short, a thoughtful, articulate book that compliments Steinbeck's original book simply and honestly. As a reflection of the country's soul at the time of the last general election, it is worth reading and thinking about.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A quick and easy read, February 2, 2011
Long Way Home, by Bill Barich

Long Way Home, by Bill Barich, left me wondering if the book would be more entertaining if written at a different time in history. The idea for his cross-country journey was sparked when Barich unexpectedly came across the book, Travels in Ireland. He decided to return to the U.S. and chronicle his journey while talking with Americans about the state of the country, much like John Steinbeck's, Travels with Charley.

Barich is critical of some small town Americans. He seems to take too much pleasure in writing about the shortfalls of those he interviewed. On the other hand, he does highlight other Americans and shares their positive stories and views, also taking pleasure in his research.

I thought there would be more thought provoking stories in the book. I find it difficult to review because there was not much substance to it. When I finished reading it, I have nothing to think about it. I find that undesirable.

I would recommend the book for a quick read if you had no other book available. It is an okay read, but not very stimulating.

Book Review by Mary Crocco
m.crocco@yahoo.com
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book in a fine tradition, October 25, 2010
Any reader opening Bill Barich's fine book Long Way Home for the first time feels the need to find out what an intelligent writer thinks about contemporary United States. A sort of running dispute between Barich's views and those of the reader makes this trip from New York to Cannery Row best taken with atlas in hand and personal memories at the ready. Is our life in free fall, or still the best option for a world full of "flawed species?"
Apparently Bill Barich reread John Steinbeck's Travel's With Charlie with the same purpose, testing Steinbeck's on-the-road discoveries against his own long-accumulated knowledge of the country they both describe. Barich battles constantly against the easy solution to write us all off as lovers of the deep-fat-fried sugar that makes it impossible for us to think while Sarah Palin assures us that we Americans are the salt of the earth. What a roller coaster he made of the hills and mountains where a town like Jeff City redeems Vincennes and the "dreariness of spirit." Does our nation constantly renew itself or simply start over repeating the same mistakes? Americans are raised on the boosterism of success stories and never really give up the idea that bad times will pass like blown-away clouds. It is a constant battle to push away the portrait of a "monster land." But of course there is nothing wrong with the land itself. It is the people that create our images of heroism or failure. John Steinbeck and Mark Twain before him gave road chroniclers like Barich good forms to go by.
Are we a people who, as Steinbeck said, have lost the past but not found a road to our future? At least there is hope in such a vision, and that is better than being a "docile, sheeplike breed." We'll hold on to that promise and wait for indefatigable explorers of America like Bill Barich and younger ones surely to follow to continuously clarify it for us.

Barry Smith, Berkeley,CA
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I hoped, August 18, 2013
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I hoped this book would have the appeal of John Steinbecks Traveling with Charley. However, it was too wordy and not enough information about what he saw and the people he met.
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3.0 out of 5 stars MINE OR BILL'S - OR STEINBECK'S TRAVELS?, April 20, 2013
This review is from: Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America (Hardcover)
Having read this very interesting revisit to Travels with Charley - forty plus years later - I found the book interesting enough, especially the references to Steinbeck's book and the author's interpretation of it, that I had to go back and reread Travels after 50 years. This is a travel book for the most part. Steinbeck's book is a book about his experiences with being human as he travels around America back in 1962. I did not at all agree with this author's interpretation of Steinbeck's experiences as written in that book. My point of view was that Steinbeck had an incredible experience and wrote it well. Alcoholism, being depressed, being lonely all were powerfully written and gave me a look into the humanity of the man - something that I must say this author's book did not do so well. But then again, we are none of us Steinbeck. I did appreciate the travels and revisiting of the earlier book. I love Steinbeck's Travels. Thank you for sending me there to travel with him at 68 (I was 18 last time) as I get ready to set off on my own travels around America later this year.!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Looking for America, May 27, 2012
This review is from: Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America (Hardcover)
Bill Barich decides to replicate the famous trip of John Steinbeck across America, a trip Steinbeck wrote about in one of his last books, Travels with Charley. He sets off to get a feeling for the heart of America. Like Steinbeck, he finds a world that is less optimistic, more bleak, more influenced by the media, a less compassionate America, a world that is driven by the dollar. Like Steinbeck, Barich runs across few individuals who seem to read and think deeply about our country and that, to me, is the saddest part of this book.
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Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America
Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck's America by Bill Barich (Hardcover - October 12, 2010)
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