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Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America (Vintage Departures Edition) Paperback – November 3, 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

British writer Raban's quest for the real America leads him to New York City, Alabama, Seattle and the Florida Keys in this wonderfully observant, often hilarious book, which was a BOMC alternate in hardcover. $30,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Since Crevecoeur and de Tocqueville, Europeans have set sail for America to try to get a handle on this vast, wild New World. Here, Briton Raban makes his second foray (the first being Old Glory , LJ 9/15/81), sailing from Liverpool like an immigrant of yore and landing in places as diverse as New York City, rural Alabama, Seattle, and the Florida Keys. Raban's eye for the unique detail allows him to delve into the American psyche, and this account is far more than a travelog. However, his tendency to embrace the seamy stereotype is disturbing. His New York is out of A Clockwork Orange ; a nasty xenophobia festers below the surface of the New South; and his lawless Keys resemble a watery Dodge City. Nevertheless, recommended.
- Jim Burns, Pompano Beach City Lib., Fla.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books; 1st edition (November 3, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037570101X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375701016
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,761 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A Brit who has travelled extensively in the U.S shares his impressions and voyages. Very perceptive, and communicates a great love of the places he's been and above all of the people he's met. Usually classified under "travel", everything I've read by Raban reads as easily as your favourite novel. "Hunting Mr. Heartbreak" takes the reader from New York (an amazing description of Macy's, and how the city is divided into "sky people" and "street people"), through Alabama, to Seattle and then to the Florida keys. Raban knows how to capture the spirit of a place through an interaction he observes on the street, a billboard on the side of the road, an article in the local newspaper. He is always gentle, humourous, understated. If you don't have time to take that road trip, this is definitely the next best thing. I have no idea why this book is out of print. I have over ten friends reading this book on my recommendation, and they can't stop talking about it. Get it any way you can.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Raban's written better books - Old Glory and Badland, to name two - nonetheless, Mr. Heartbreak is an engaging book that is a delight to read. Seeking the singular experience of becoming American, Raban sets up shop in New York City, Guntersville (Alabama), Seattle, and Key West to investigate the newly emigrated and those whose families emigrated generations ago. His observations of people and places are insightful, intriguing and occasionally quite funny.
He is an accomplished observer, capable of peering beyond the surface to uncover what lies beneath. The book's opening, in which Raban describes his sea voyage from Liverpool to New York, is particularly entertaining. So, too, his sojourn in Alabama where he provides gleeful commentary on the irony of a town embracing provincialism whilst stuggling with worldy challenges. I was tempted to award this book 5 stars, but it simply doesn't measure up to other Raban efforts. All the same, it is an excellent selection on anyone's reading list.
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Jonathan Raban is, unless I'm missing some unknown genius out there (always a possibility), the best contemporary travel writer out there - hands, anchors, flaps down. I think the main reason for this is that his writing is not MERE travel writing, as such, but is as much introspective as explorative. He allows the places he visits to seep into him and produces narratives that seamlessly mingle inner and outer travel as no other modern writer does. He is also keenly aware - or makes himself keenly aware - of the history of the places he sojourns, such as Guntersville, Alabama, giving his narratives a further layer of texture and depth. Added to all these qualities, he is extremely literate and literary - And yet for all these depths, he is so much fun!

There are not many books which cause me to laugh aloud when reading them; Fielding's Eighteenth Century Classic Tom Jones was the last, if memory serves. But this book did it for me, particularly the one hundred page centrepiece of the book, the chapter "In Our Valley", set in Guntersville, Alabama: His (successful) attempt to "rent" or borrow a dog - the Labrador "Gypsy", his renting a cabin in a neighbourhood called Polecat Alley, imagining himself as a Southern squire if he buys the lakefront property a local real estate dealer is attempting to foist on him etc--Perhaps it's because I myself am a transplanted Englishman living in the South, but these hundred pages were golden to me, and worth as much as the entire book- particularly when Raban notices he's picking up a Southern accent and starting to call himself "Mr. Rayburn" (to be intoned with long-stressed Southern syllables), as the rest of the town has denominated him.

Well, I've gone on enough. Time for me, as Raban puts it, to "flat-mash the gas pedal" and let you readers do the further exploring.
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By A Customer on November 5, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is another thoroughly enjoyable book that Mr. Raban has produced. As good as Old Glory, Hunting he is a book that deserves to be read. I save his books for trips so that I can savour each and every page. Memorable accounts of his sea journey over and his time in Guntersville, Alabama live on years after reading.
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Format: Paperback
I agree with previous reviewers that this book combines keen observation and stunning command of language, much like the travel writing of Paul Theroux, whom the author apparently admires. And yet, also like Theroux, this book is infused with a coldness, a disturbing lack of humanity.

I, like many, believe that the soul of good travel writing lies in the people encountered along the way. There are plenty of people in this book, but they seem to be regarded as little more than specimens - meticulously described, but inferior in some way. Each person encountered is "revealed" to be either ignorant, venal, or both. Any indications of true goodness are dismissed as duplicity.

I finished this book with memorable descriptions still echoing in my brain. And yet ... a sour taste in my mouth. Aside from a few half-hearted stabs at self-deprecation, it seems as if the author feels he is superior to everyone, that he is interested in (and capable of) analyzing everyone, but learning from no one. I can't help but wonder if the shallowness he seems to see in others is in reality just a reflection.

I'd like to visit some of these places again, but not with the author.
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