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Old Glory : A Voyage Down the Mississippi Paperback – May 26, 1998
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True, when Raban isn't cheating death he encounters some stunning terrain, which he describes in no-less-stunning prose. Yet Old Glory is much, much more than a travelogue. It is also a brilliant interrogation of the American psyche, in the tradition of De Tocqueville and Crevecoeur. And ultimately, Raban tells us a great deal about the very phenomenon of travel, with all its rigors and rewards, and its peculiar, metaphysical dislocations: "Riding the river, I had seen myself as a sincere traveler, thinking of my voyage not as a holiday but as a scale model of a life. It was different from life in one essential: I would survive it to give an account of its end."
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This is a very good book and worth reading. However, it would not be my first choice of books written by this author. This book is marred by an attitude of superiority and condecension that Raban appears to have lost in his later books.
His initial impressions were often filled with disappointment. He had approached this trip with a boyhood dream in his head and he was continually set back on his proverbial heels by the reality of these river towns in 1979. More often than not, however, further exploration of the town, conversations with some of its citizens and reflection on his part, caused Raban to revise his evaluation of many of the places that he visited.
Some reviewers may perhaps have forgotten that this book describes this region as it was after years during which the US economy struggled through an oil crisis, bouts of inflation, intervals of high unemployment and the tail end of the history of the "old economy". Should someone have the time and inclination to retrace Raban's steps nearly 25 years later, I would not be surprised if they found these towns and their people had changed quite a bit, probably for the better in social and economic terms. For instance, Raban devoted most of a chapter to the failed election campaign of Memphis's first black candidate for mayor. A quick Google (keywords: Memphis Tennesee government) will show you that the present mayor of Memphis (Willie W. Herenton) is African-American. I'm going to guess that he is not the first black mayor of Memphis.
I loved Raban's modus operandi for getting to the heart of a place. Tie up your boat, go to the nearest bar and strike up a conversation.Read more ›
Raban's just now clearing Lock 6 at Trempealeaw, and I'm abandoning ship before we've even left Minnesota. I can journey no further south with this contemptible ass. His misanthropic disdain for people who show nothing but kindness to him is quite appalling. I'm no flag-waving provincialist; I'm something of a cynic myself. But, I've journeyed all over the world, and have never felt compelled to straight-arm a local's accent, clothing, mannerisms, dietary habits, housing, or the width of his neck.
There are many other books available that document voyages down the Mississippi, usually in a craft much less river-worthy than a 16-foot speedboat. Try "Paddle to the Amazon" for a starter.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
gritty, real, a once in a lifetime trip, in search of America.Published 9 months ago by Andrew Horton
The vision and the voyage of the author intrigued me geographically and culturally. Written by an unhappy man and who, unfortunately, seeks out and illuminates the darker sides of... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Fire Boy
A few chapters in...and so far it is, as others indicate, agonizingly negative. Life is short, don't waste it looking at a glass that's never seen a drop. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Bryan Lowe
I agree with several of the other reviews posted here in that the book shows a definite air of superiority by the author. Read morePublished 17 months ago by NavyJim
Didn't care for this book at all. Seemed like the author was trying to over analyze everything as a way to add description to his whereabouts. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Me