Taking the Highway in Roads

Taking the Highway in Roads

If you’re a dreamer, and you long for the journey, Roads: Driving America’s Great Highways, by Larry McMurtry is for you.

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The muse of this book is the highway, not the place of departure, not the place of arrival, but the journey between those two points. In a sense, where one might be heading, and where one comes from, is of little importance. And throughout this journey, the journeys previously lived come back and are lived again all at once, together. It’s as if life itself is a series of building blocks to be constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed ad infinitum, in an infinite never ending puzzle that changes on a whim, is lived at eighty miles an hour, and then stops abruptly. While the journey is happening, there is no end, there is no beginning, there is everything all at once, there is only the highway.

In Roads: Driving America’s Great Highways, McMurtry attempts to transcend time itself. That, of course, is not possible. You’d have to travel faster than the speed of light to actually be able to do that. What he achieves is the illusion of bringing his life, the life of other writers, of the various people of America together, as if the highway was the glue that binds centuries of lives, bringing them together by the sheer force of the road traveled.

He rarely gets off the highway, he eats at bland nondescript places, sleeps in unnamed motels, leaving first thing in the morning, and avoids all the tourist trappings of rural America. The only thing that matters is the road, the musings the road creates within his mind, driving down the highway at 80 miles an hour.

I get this. I get this book.

It helps of course, that Larry McMurtry is an excellent writer. Great writers don’t need plot or story to keep a book engaging. Mr. McMurtry has proven over and over again that he is a master at creating great stories, however he doesn’t need them. Here, all he needs is the highway.

With Roads, the only narrative is the never ending road that keeps going and never stops. Until it does.

Roads: Driving America’s Great Highways
By Larry McMurtry
Published by Simon & Schuster 2000
208 pages

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