Short Lines: Classic American Railroad Stories

Robert Johnson, Author, Ron Hazlitt, Illustrator, Don Hazlitt, Illustrator
Robert Johnson, Author, Ron Hazlitt, Illustrator, Don Hazlitt, Illustrator St. Martin's Press $23.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-14046-5
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
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Before the personal computer downloaded into the American lexicon the verb ""network"" and the ubiquitous adjective ""virtual,"" an older technology captured the American imagination. Many of the railroad stories in this theme anthology were tailored for popular magazines of the era by authors who used stock adventure plots and added significant doses of railroad lore, but the better stories in the collection strive for a more universal appeal. Thomas Wolfe's ""The Near and the Far"" is perhaps the best entry, a brief but poignant ode to the influence of perspective on the memories of a retired conductor who visits a tiny homestead that was once part of his daily route. A more pedestrian affair, O. Henry's ""Holding Up a Train"" is a straightforward primer on how pull off a train robbery. ""Hoboes that Pass in the Night,"" by Jack London, reflects the writer's days of riding the rails. There is a brief chapter from The Octopus, Frank Norris's well-known railroad novel. Most of the remaining tales fall into the category of light comedy or adventure by such specialists as Harry Bedwell, Frank Hamilton Spearman and Cy Warman, among others. Written between 1897 and 1941, these tales collectively elicit nostalgia for a time when, helped by the railroads, America was just beginning to introduce itself to itself. (Mar.)
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