Highways to Heaven: The Auto Biography of America

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9780060165512: Highways to Heaven: The Auto Biography of America

A chronicle of the automobile from the early days of the ""horseless carriage"" to the present explores human beings' attraction to, obsession with, and development of the automobile, discussing form, style, innovation, and more. $25,000 ad/promo.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Cultural historian Finch (co-author, Gone Hollywood, 1979; Rainbow, 1975) deftly examines Americans' auto eroticism and the revolutionary alterations it has made in the country's landscape. Most of the sources Finch uses are secondary histories, and some of his material--such as the sexual symbolism of the automobile--has been discussed so often as to be hackneyed. The coverage of topics is also standard: from the early innovations of Germany's Daimler and Benz and America's Duryea brothers through L.A.'s development as the first decentralized, auto-centered city, down to the crunching oil crises of the 1970's. Yet Finch excels in detailing how autos have expressed the deepest impulses of the American psyche. ``Nothing,'' he notes, ``has played a more potent role in the waking dreams of twentieth-century Americans than the automobile.'' Often ironically, he underscores correspondences between the car and other aspects of popular culture, such as the fashion and movie industries. He is tugged between concern over the ills bred by the automobile and affection for its frequently raffish ``kitsch culture'' progeny, including diners, billboards, shopping centers, motels, and franchise operations like McDonald's. He also turns in fascinating analyses of the car's role in crime; the ``geographic restlessness'' permeating Raymond Chandler's glimpses of L.A.; and the development of hilly, even mountainous areas. Even as automobile body-types have become homogenized, Finch shows, Americans continue to personalize their vehicles through vanity license plates, custom vans, and bumper stickers. He suggests that such individualism should be taken into account as legislators propose remedies for oil-induced ills like smog, excess traffic, and gas shortages. A bracing tour through 20th-century American culture. (One hundred b&w photographs--not seen.) -- Copyright 1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

In this sociological analysis of the effects of the automobile on the culture of America, Finch traces the growth of suburbs, strip shopping centers, mom-and-pop diners, and the highway landscape alongside the history of the automobile. The author finds the influence of the automobile to be pervasive from music and movies to architecture and graphic design. Although similar to Leon Mandel's Driven ( LJ 9/1/77. o.p.), Finch's book offers a unique perspective. While not a scholarly work, the book is well written, easy to read, and provides a broad overview of the topic. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.
- Eric C. Shoaf, Duke Univ. Lib., Durham, N.C.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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