- File Size: 259 KB
- Print Length: 86 pages
- Publisher: Fidelity Press (December 6, 2011)
- Publication Date: December 6, 2011
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B006J9N2XI
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,144,002 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Travels with Harley in Search of America: Motorcycles, War, Deracination, Consumer Identity Kindle Edition
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How did an abortion ruin John Steinbeck's life, and how did he become co-opted in his later years?
How is an RV like a modern covered wagon?
And how has the unfolding of 20th century America led to Walmart?
These and other questions are addressed in Travels with Harley in Search of America. The title is a play on John Steinbeck's memoir, Travels with Charley, and is Jones's memoir of his trip across America. However, Jones doesn't just recall his experience but ponders the causes of several baby boomer trends he sees such as RVing and motorcycling.
In Jones's exposition, America is presented as a perpetual frontier, where people can always move on when familiar places begin to haunt their conscience. Novel social groups like biker gangs can also offer an escape. Moreover, the latest consumer goods offer a similar distraction from regrets of the past and a broken identity.
I enjoyed the dialogue between Jones and the people he met on his journey. The only reason I rated the book four out of five is that his theories don't seem to be quite as solid as in some of his other books. He relies heavily on others' writing and things don't seem to be drawn together quite as well. Nevertheless, as is often the case with Jones, his analysis sheds light on faulty conventional narrative.
If there is one lasting impression from the book, it is of a tidal wave made up of war, abortion, and consumerism washing over a generation of people, the baby boomers, leaving many destroyed lives in its wake.
But we are not just left with a sad tale of destruction. Jones reveals how broken lives can be mended, and suggests a way people can shelter themselves from future storms.
I'd recommend Travels with Harley to anyone who wants to go on an expedition into how America became what it is today.
“There is no way to fix a messed up life,” though there are a few delusional detours that Baby Boomers took.
This book was fascinating and complements much of Jones’ other works, particularly Libido Dominandi and Dionysos Rising. I think most men over 40 may find something to identify with here. The overriding narrative about American novelist/legend John Steinbeck’s desire for fame becoming his undoing beginning with an abortion he encourages his wife to have is also telling and a good fit for this work (and, obviously, the inspiration for the title). Travels with Harley gives us the dark side of the open road in the American Mythos— the invisible reasons why people hit the road or relocate (i.e. un-repented sin, mostly), and the deracination of the American male (and female to some degree) over the past few generations.
Especially fascinating were the cultural descriptions of bikers and an explanation for the whole biker thing, which I personally haven’t lived, though I have friends/acquaintances close to it. The strange mythos of the biker always intrigued and disturbed me at the same time. How can one represent freedom and degeneracy at the same time? Jones explains why pretty well. Some major motorcycle events are just another form of American bacchanal presently, though their origins were largely made up of disaffected, white, working class veterans from WW II and Vietnam with a distinct anti-civilization attitude that has now been marketed and homogenized much as hippie culture was. Jones also has added something to the anti-hero canon on an intellectual level in his review of motorcycle culture.
As a former freelance writer for a local regional mag some years back, I came very close to writing a travelogue when I drove from Massachusetts to the southern part of the U.S (the greater Atlanta area). The trip was strange, bizarre and thought provoking, especially when I got off the route 95 money trap and onto the highways of the south with their towering signs for fireworks, strip clubs and Waffle Houses (this was surreal and endless, with my only company in the night being massive trucks blasting past my mini-van). The dense metros of the northeast were also strange.
This book is at once a travelogue and a deep, spiritual reflection of sorts. It may not be the America with the happy face we always want and often get in our reading, but it’s genuinely intriguing.
The other two works of Jones evident in this work are the Slaughter of the Cities and Barren Metal, both of which I have not read though I’ve heard him talk at length about them through online interviews and lectures (I’m sure some of his other works are relevant to Travels with Harley too). These and the previously mentioned selections make understanding his commentary throughout his journey through Americana easier (though readers can enjoy this work without having read these).
I was always intrigued by the concept of reinventing yourself in America (think the Wild West and Open Road) and I have bought in to a lot of the mythology, even though I’m born about a year too late to be an official baby boomer. But the truth is, I believe in what Jones says about deracination, from his lengthy writings and from the work of other authors, as well as certain films (particularly the anti-hero movement in the television market over the past decade plus, from the Wire and the Sopranos to Breaking Bad and the Walking Dead—many of these shows, particularly the last two, have deracination themes all over them). I’ve also experienced the open road to nowhere in my own life and the lives of those around me. It is a powerful notion.
This book was riveting—insightful, sad and sometimes funny. Not every non-fiction author can hold my attention, but Jones (and Tom Wolfe and a few others) still do.
Mike's on target but when he arrives he'll find Pound and Belloc waiting for him. Poor Jack and his people and non-consensual revolution!