cover image Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America

Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America

Jonathan Raban / Author Edward Burlingame Books $25 (372p) ISB

By ship from Liverpool, British writer Raban ( Old Glory ) arrived in New York, ``a city in a round-the-clock state of emergency,'' to begin his quest for the real America. In Alabama he found ``Calvinist'' values of godliness, hearth and home, and resistance to change ``riding higher than at any time since the Civil War.'' Sated on ``Christ-haunted'' cookouts and family suppers, he flew to ``impressively tolerant'' Seattle, where only intruding Californians were discriminated against, and was struck by the zeal and energy of Korean immigrants. In Seattle he adopted an alter ego, ``Rainbird,'' that of a settled-in novelist, and in the Florida Keys he impersonated a floating outlaw in Miami Vice style. This distancing device lets him step back to assess the potential and heartbreak of a country where an ache for transcendence is channeled into TV, fashion, star-worship, the lottery and escapist fantasy. Wonderfully observant, often hilarious, the book is written in almost sensual prose with the astonished integrity of a visitor who dropped in from another planet. 50,000 first printing; author tour. (May)