cover image Driving Home: An American Journey

Driving Home: An American Journey

Jonathan Raban. Pantheon, $30 (512p) ISBN 978-0-307-37991-7

With his characteristic curiosity and his insatiable desire to drink as deeply as he can from the wells of landscape or literature, Raban (Passage to Juneau) once again vividly captures the experience of trying to make a home in a place that he continues to find fascinating, bizarre, ugly, beautiful, repellent, and generous. Raban moved to Seattle from London in 1990, imagining that the life of writing could easily be transported in an age of instant communication, and because he met someone. In this diverse collection of dispatches from life in a new land, Raban ranges widely over the territory into which he has alighted, exploring the turbulence of waves as he sails the Pacific coast, the vagaries of American politics, the destructive ravages of natural disasters such as the Mississippi floods of 1992, and the difficulty of going home again. Drawing on two then new books on the mid-20th-century photographer Dorothea Lange, for example, Raban adroitly observes that "across the rural West the Great Depression is less a historical event than a permanent condition... the warning in the rearview mirror applies here: the lives in Lange's photographs for the FSA are closer than they appear." In one of the collection's most charming pieces, "Why Travel?" he ruminates about the ways to turn travel into adventure: "The good traveler is an inveterate snoop... worming your way into the skin of a true denizen, you begin to see the landscape itself as a real place and not just as a the pretty backdrop to your own holiday." Like a stalwart travel guide, Raban points out the charming as well as the peculiar details of America's cultural, political, and physical landscape. (Sept.)