cover image A Route 66 Companion

A Route 66 Companion

Edited by David King Dunaway. Univ. of Texas, $19.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-0-292-72660-4

Route 66 has a long and interesting history, and Dunaway%E2%80%94the recipient of Berkeley's first Ph.D. in American Studies%E2%80%94has done a fantastic job selecting works of literature about "America's Main Street" to tell its dynamic story, supplemented by the editor's own invaluable commentary. The pieces span all genres, from poetry to memoir to detective fiction to SF. The first chapter tells of the early years, when in 1858 Lieutenant Edward F. Beale surveyed the prospective route for a wagon road with a caravan of camels. That path became a railroad in the 1890s, and finally a highway in 1926. From there, the selections are split into sections focusing on a different regional area of the famed road. In "Plains 66: Oklahoma and Texas," the autobiography of Will Rogers%E2%80%94the man for whom the route was named%E2%80%94is excerpted. Also included is a selection from The Negro Motorist Green Book, a text detailing establishments open to African-Americans in the 30s. In the New Mexico and Arizona chapter, Mary Toya writes of growing up in the "Indian Camp" in Winslow, Arizona, where families lived in boxcars and were not permitted to leave their homes at night. A selection from Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath is included in this chapter as well. "66 is the path of a people in flight," he wrote. The California chapter has many great pieces, but Sylvia Plath's poem "Sleep in the Mojave Desert" is a definite standout in this all-around remarkable anthology. Illus. (Feb.)