Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Book Review: Roads

A Fair Trade Book

Title: Roads

Author: Larry McMurtry

Date: 2000

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 0-684-86884-9

Length: 206 pages

Quote: “I have finally been to where the road goes, and shouldn’t need to go looking for a while.”

This is a long and literary reminiscence by the author of Lonesome Dove. Lots of road trips; lots of books. I personally have tended to prefer reminiscences about just one road trip, but McMurtry couldn’t pick just one. He takes short road trips and writes short pieces about the history, and literary history, and bookstores, associated with each weekend on the road.

He is not, however, bound to one particular road or starting point, in this book. Whether actually taking a road trip each month for one year, for this book, or reminiscing about a past one, he chooses a different road each month:

January: 35 from Duluth to Oklahoma City
February: 35 from Dallas to Laredo; 10 fromJacksonville to Lafayette; 49 to Shreveport
March: 70 from Baltimore to Burlington (Colorado)
April: 75 from Detroit to Sault Ste Marie
May: San Diego to Tucson to Archer City
June: L.A. to Albuquerque; 75 from Tampa to Miami, US1 through the florida Keys, 41 west to Naples
July: D.C. to Dallas
August: “Short Roads”
September: Seattle to Omaha

The book ends in September.

If any of these roads is familiar to you, you probably want to read what McMurtry has to say about it. You probably feel that he doesn’t say enough, or take enough time to know this part of the country as well as it deserves. I hadn’t known that McMurtry had been a bookseller in Washington, D.C.; he left the city around the time I started earning enough money there to buy books. I would have been interested in more reminiscing about Washington, or about the delightful drive to Dallas. Most of McMurtry’s readers undoubtedly wanted more, in this book, about the places where his novels were set.

If you like his “westerns,” or like “western” fiction generally, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy meeting McMurtry in this book. Nice chap. Not longwinded, not self-centered, possibly just a little bit attention-deficient, as many “western” readers are. Instead of settling in one place and bonding with it their sense of “home” involves rapid movement among lots of different places. I don’t relate to that restlessness, myself, at all. Many people do. I think it's unfortunate that those people have failed to develop a healthy sense of topophilia, but if you're one of them, this book is for you.

And it's a Fair Trade Book: buy it here, $5 per book, $5 per package, you could fit at least three paperback novels into the package along with Roads, add $1 per online payment, and we send $1 per book to McMurtry or a charity of his choice.