Monday, July 13, 2009

Prairie storm ...

Other than Travels with Charley, which remains my favorite, the first book-length travel narrative I probably read was Blue Highways: A Journey into America, by William Least Heat Moon. I was working as a bellman in Glacier Park in the summer of 1983, and made a trip to a little Kalispell bookshop specifically to buy the thing.

Though it's a fine book, I guess I ended up being a little disappointed in it ... the tone didn't resonate with me, somehow, and the author chose to cross Montana on US Highway 2, which isn't my favorite route across the state (east of about Cut Bank, anyway). It's got some very evocative passages in it, though, like this one describing a night beneath a prairie storm in Wolf Point:
I had to go back to the highway for dinner at a truck stop. Something moved in there -- I couldn't say what. Six people sat in the cafe, in the light and warmth, almost assured by the jukebox, and filled their stomachs; yet there was an edge to the voices, to the faces. From a thousand feet up, the prairie storm, pouring cold water on the little cafe glowing in the blackness, held us all. Even as we ate our soup and steak and eggs, we felt the sky.


  1. I had the same response to "Blue Highways." I enjoyed the book, but was left was...not particularly compelling; no great epiphanies. I still recommend the book, though.

  2. Here's my overriding thought about the book: the author was trying way too hard, trying to create great literature where none could exist.

    But it's definitely an interesting read ... of course, I say that about nearly all travel literature! :)

  3. Well...we (Ann and me...) just finished "Badland," the story of Eastern Jonathan Raban, a transplanted Englishman who lives in Seattle. Very, very good!! (Much better that his other book...about a trip down the Mississippi...)

    Get a copy...easy to find on ABE books or Alibris. Well worth the read.

  4. Hi, Pat ...

    I already have a copy of "Bad Land" in my personal library ... got it years ago, right after it came out. Though it's been long enough now that I don't remember the details, I confess that I didn't like it quite as much as I'd hoped. I wasn't sure that he "got" the place in the way that he thinks he did.

    I should probably pull it out again, though, and give it another read. It would definitely be worth another look.

    Thanks, and take care ...