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The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer's Search for Meaning in the Great Depression Audio CD – Audiobook, September 18, 2018
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About the Author
Ben Montgomery is a staff writer at the Tampa Bay Times and cofounder of the Auburn Chautauqua, a Southern writers' collective. He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 and has won many other national writing awards.
- Item Weight : 8 ounces
- Audio CD : 1 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1549145959
- ISBN-13 : 978-1549145957
- Dimensions : 5.8 x 1.1 x 5.7 inches
- Publisher : Hachette B and Blackstone Audio; Unabridged AUDIO edition (September 18, 2018)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,725,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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A string of bad luck had hit Plennie, thanks to the Depression. Nearly penniless, he hit on an idea. People were doing all kinds of crazy things to break records in a quest for fame. With fame comes money. It seemed as if everything that could be done had been done. Except...no one had walked around the world backward.
Plennie became obsessed. Every day for six months he practiced walking backward. He bought a map and sunglasses with mirrors to see behind him. He was given a cane. He put on his steel heeled shoes and a suit and ticked a notebook in his pocket, and in 1931 he left Texas, walking backward down Main Street on his way toward Dallas. He had picture postcards of himself to sell for income and hoped to find a commercial sponsor.
The Man Who Walked Backward by Ben Montgomery is Plennie's story, which is entertaining and interesting. He meets with great generosity and falls victim to scammers. He is a dreamer and a go-getter, fated to hit brick walls. He is harassed by cops and jailed in a foreign land. An affable man, he made friends who offered him shelter and meals and sometimes cash.
As readers travel with Plennie, we experience the misery and poverty of the Depression. We learn the story of America's growth through the history of the places he passed through, and how we used up and destroyed our vast riches.
Famous events and people are mentioned: the destruction of the buffalo as part of Native American genocide; the destruction of the prairie; towns that boom and bust; lynching and the Klan; Bonnie and Clyde and Al Capone; the kidnapping of Charles Lindberg's baby; the rise of Hoovervilles and the Dust Bowl; the growth of the beer industry and Prohibition.
And we travel with Plennie to Germany to experience the rise of Hitler, and across Europe to Turkey. It is unsettling how 1931 America is so familiar: ecological disaster, the destruction of the working class, the rise of a man who knew how to work the crowd, "tailoring his speeches to his audiences" and promising to make Germany great again. "People loved him. those who didn't were scared of those who did."
I found the book fascinating.
I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
While Wingo made it to Europe, his overseas travel ended in Turkey, where authorities threw him in jail and made him leave. However, he did get a lot farther than I would have expected--crossing the United States and parts of eight other countries. His initial trip took 18 months and more than 5,000 miles and he eventually pushed his count to 8,000 miles.
He said he got his crazy idea when his daughter's friends were discussing stunts that were then the rage (pole sitting, peanut pushing, solo flying and the like) and said there was nothing that hadn't already been done. Wingo begged to differ.
The subtitle of The Man Who Walked Backward is a half misleading "an American dreamer's search for meaning the Great Depression." Wingo was a dreamer to be sure, but there is nothing in this book to suggest any introspection. He was after adventure, fame and fortune and was willing to sacrifice his family and 12 pairs of shoes to get it. He definitely found the first two, getting his photo and story in newsreels and newspapers across the country--and even overseas. He came home with just $4 in his pocket, but he managed to finance his travels, selling postcards of himself for a quarter (equal to about $4 today), carrying sign boards, doing odd jobs and taking advantage of free meals and accommodations whenever they were offered.
Ben Montgomery puts Wingo's story into context, telling about both current and historical events related to the places Wingo walks through. This is often a real strength--especially when he tells us what others were doing to cope with the Great Depression at the time, including hunger marchers, strikers and suicidal businessmen. But sometimes his love of statistics got a bit too much for me--telling us for example, the number of telephones and library books in Joplin, Mo., or the exact number of days in World War I.
Overall, I found it to be a good read about an entertaining character.