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Roads : Driving America's Great Highways Paperback – June 5, 2001
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Actually, there may be another reason the author is reluctant to apply the brakes: his distaste for various towns, villages, counties, and entire states. Planning a trip to the Texas hill country? McMurtry notes that "the soil is too stoney to farm or ranch, the hills are just sort of forested speed bumps, and the people, mostly of stern Teutonic stock, are suspicious, tightfisted, unfriendly, and mean." Missouri is "a place to get through as rapidly as possible," Ohio and Georgia "really aren't pleasant," and woe to the traveler who lingers in the one-horse towns of the West, "where it's not even wise to roll down one's windows--if you avoid getting murdered you might still breathe in some deadly desert germ."
This crankiness does have an undeniable comic appeal. Yet Roads turns out to be a sentimental journey after all, in the course of which McMurtry hopes to resurrect some of the élan vital he lost in the wake of his 1991 heart surgery. Driving, like reading itself, just may prompt some remembrance of things past:
As I prepared to drive those same overfamiliar roads again it occurred to me that my effort was obliquely Proustian, a retracing of my past that is analogous to the many rereadings I've done in the last few years, always of books I read before the surgery. In these rereadings and redrivings I'm searching, not for lost time, but for lost feelings, for the elements of my old personality that are still unaccounted for. I'm not anguished about these absentees, just curious and somewhat wistful.Indeed, anguish is largely absent from McMurtry's account, and he doesn't dwell often on this scenario of loss and recovery. Still, it comes through particularly strongly at the end, when he compares his own, transient experience of place to his father's. These final chapters cast a sadder and more substantial light on the preceding ones--and make this circuitous, sometimes tetchy book a trip worth taking. --James Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
--John McCormick, New Hampshire State Lib., Concord
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
It was incredible to find this book because for the first time, I have found somebody who gets it, who understands it. While reading this, I relived my own adventures which not only made me happy -- but very anxious to go on another trip. Mr. McMurtry was able to find the words I've tried to find when I try to explain to others why I love long road trips.
It's a wonderful narration of the impressions we all get as we travel through areas, but it also makes you think about what you may not know about your own area, such as its history or storytellers. I do not see Mr. McMurty as lonely, but very much a participant in life that nudges others into thought, introspection, and remembrance. Our worlds are what we make them, and his is as expansive as the plains.
But "Roads," Larry McMurtry's new collection of essays, part Jack Kerouac, part William Least Heat Moon, part travelogue, part memoir, offers a glimpse of places as remote as the human heart.
This collection of essays is not as much about roads as restlessness. His routine is simple: McMurtry flies someplace, rents a car and drives home to lonesome Archer City, Texas. On his dawn-to-dusk superhighway sojourns, never slowing down for three-calendar diners, tourist traps or even to visit friends, he won't even turn on the radio. The journey itself is his destination. It's about going, not stopping.
At a level as uncomplicated as a farm-to-market road, the highways of McMurtry's collection are merely threads binding together his diverse musings on Los Angeles, manifest destiny, Hemingway's furniture, the need for rattlesnakes, the callowness (and shallowness) of contemporary Hollywood, cowboys, young killers in the Heartland, old books, fatherhood, the yellow housepaint in Key Largo, great rivers, the Holy Tortilla, and short remembrances of several dead characters from his stories. His prose has the quality of conversation on a long, long drive: a meandering, intimate, unfettered discourse inspired by the passing landscape.
But in a larger sense, "Roads" is a metaphor for the circular journey of McMurtry's life. It leads him to, from and through places where he considered roads not taken, or where his personal or literary paths crossed others, or simply where the quality of light through his windshield illuminated a memory.
"Roads" can be read as a natural sequel to "Walter Benjamin": The boy who never read Hemingway or Faulkner until he went to college now takes to the open road as a man to ponder their legacies -- and his own.
Hence the road trips become merely a vague backdrop for exercises in reminiscing, and McMurtry unloads some poorly defined justifications for taking the journeys, relying on stock gibberish about finding oneself on the road, exploring the soul of America, and the like. Worst of all, during each trip McMurtry often starts complaining partway through that he has lost whatever inspiration caused him to start out, and in a quite annoying anti-travel fashion, he spends more time describing why he decided to avoid certain highways and even large regions. One horrendous example is his dismissal of the entire state of Idaho because of its small population of Aryans, while he has little good to say about any large city he traverses, nor many of the small towns. The only thing saving this book from total oblivion is the many times McMurtry praises other travel writers, which will encourage you to explore books far more enjoyable than this one. [~doomsdayer520~]
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There's little depth. His descriptions are as informed as you can get while zooming down an interstate.Published 1 month ago by jc
All in all this is a pretty disappointing book. The author chooses to travel by interstate highways most of the time, intentionally spurning contact with local people along the... Read morePublished on January 13, 2014 by Chris Sjoblom
Much more than a travelogue, this volume offers insights into the routes, the history and attractions of the areas involved, and biographical anecdotes relating to the author. Read morePublished on May 24, 2013 by polockjock
Larry McMurtry's ROADS (2000) was only mildly entertaining to me. I started reading his books forty years ago, and read his first seven novels, then a few years later, I read... Read morePublished on May 10, 2013 by Timothy J. Bazzett
Short descriptions of various plaes on the roads driven. again - a lot of name dropping and only a few hints of reasons to be therePublished on March 26, 2013 by arb
Larry McMurtry. Author of such great fiction as Lonesome Dove; Terms of Endearment; Horseman, Pass By (later made into the movie Hud) and many, many other skillful pieces of... Read morePublished on May 18, 2012 by William J. Higgins,III
I like Larry McMurtry's books. Generally I like his non fiction better than his later fiction.
But just scanning this book I found glaring errors. Read more
This book was my entertainment on a recent trip to Northern Cal and Southern AZ during Thanksgiving week (in 2004). Mr. Read morePublished on July 25, 2010 by T. Kepler
What an odd little book McMurty came up with this time! When I first spotted this one at the library I had visions of a short version of Blue Highways: A Journey into America by... Read morePublished on April 11, 2010 by D. Blankenship