cover image Mobility Without Mayhem

Mobility Without Mayhem

Jeremy Packer, . . Duke Univ., $23.95 (349pp) ISBN 978-0-8223-3963-2

In his dense cultural history of the car in post-WWII society, Packer logically distills the complex relationship between Americans, their automobiles and their love and fear of driving. North Carolina State University professor Packer examines a variety of issues, including the evolution of the station wagon from outdoorsy sport vehicle to family car, the explosion of CB radio use among truckers in the 1970s and the significance of Cadillacs to African-Americans (Ralph Ellison dubbed them “coon cages” in his story Cadillac Flambé ). The author carefully lays out the emergence of “automobility” or the organization of society based on the desires of an automobile-addicted population following the country's first major expansion of its highway network (and subsequent increase of government regulations for those highways). Packer rattles off stats and studies with ease, though at times his prose can be more cumbersome than informative. But by choosing to study cultural “evidence”—films, advertising, magazine articles and others—and centering each of his chapters on a specific demographic group—for example, hot-rodders, hitchhikers, suburbanites—Packer produces a well-rounded study of an essential aspect of the average American's daily life. (Mar.)