this week's review
JANUARY 11, 1999

Bruce Chatwin

Andrei Codrescu

R. Crumb

Allen Ginsberg

Henry Miller

Kurt Vonnegut

Road Scholar
by Andrei Codrescu
with photographs by David Graham

Roumanian-born poet and brand-new driver Andrei Codrescu hops in a mint red '68 Cadillac and journeys with film crew from Ellis Island to the Golden Gate, making stops in a ravaged and abandoned Detroit, a moving and shaking Chicago, the New Age and Survivalist supermarkets of the southwest, the neon kitsch of Vegas, and finally the odd peace and stability of San Francisco, where Codrescu notes, "From here on out there is nothing but ocean. You can't run any farther. You must turn around to face yourself." Perhaps because he himself is a bit eccentric, Codrescu never condescends to or disparages his subjects, remaining true to his observation that "what keeps us together is precisely the awed awareness of our differences...."

Towards the end of the book, Codrescu interviews City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti (an interview which didn't make it into the film version, by the way) who compares Henry Miller's and Kerouac's cross-country roadtrip accounts, The Air-Conditioned Nightmare and On the Road, respectively: "...Miller was more focused on the reality of America whereas Kerouac was off in his Catholic consciousness more. When you read On the Road closely, you see he really wasn't observing the reality in front of him."

Other than occasional nostalgic flashbacks to the '60s, Codrescu is genuinely engaged and surprised by what he finds at the well-lit fringes of American society at the end of the 20th century and describes it all with journalistic acuity and poetic flare. A must for anyone who's done or is dreaming of doing the transcontinental trip.

fiction | non-fiction | art | comix | poetry
© 1999 robert zverina