Road Scholar: Coast To Coast Late in the Century

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9780786880812: Road Scholar: Coast To Coast Late in the Century

A radio personality describes his coast-to-coast journey across the United States, discussing beatniks and poets in New York's East Village, a drive-through wedding in Las Vegas, and other oddities

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Review:

Codrescu embraces the tradition of seeking America from the driver's seat. He starts out by saying that "all my life I had two claims to fame: I was born in Transylvania and I didn't drive a car." To make a film, Codrescu loses one of those claims. He takes driving lessons, then tours the country making a film of the America he finds. He sees the Statue of Liberty, a Roller Skating Gospel Rink near Chicago, Sikhs in Albuquerque, and ends in San Francisco's North Beach. His writing is lyrical, insightful, and very original.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Romanian-born poet, professor (English/LSU), and NPR commentator Codrescu (The Hole in the Flag, 1991, etc.) drives from East Coast to West, nosing into the sort of lovably wacky Americana that's made the comparable dispatches of fellow wheelman/writer Charles Kuralt so popular. One big difference between Codrescu and Kuralt, though, is that Kuralt responds to American eccentricity with levelheaded wisdom and humor, while Codrescu appears every bit as odd as his subjects. The first step in his odyssey, for instance, is learning how to drive: The 40-ish author never has mastered the skill--and not for want of trying: ``I tried to learn...The third time...I drove right into [a] stream. I had gotten so confident I forgot to steer.'' Nevertheless, Codrescu tries again, taking driver's ed in his adopted hometown of New Orleans--and this time he succeeds, and decides to buy a Cadillac. But the new models look like ``cold mashed potatoes,'' so he purchases a 1968 red Caddie convertible. With camera crew in tow (his trip is to be filmed for theatrical release), he heads to N.Y.C., where he receives Allen Ginsberg's ``blessing'' and begins his journey west. Along his erratic way, he pays homage at Walt Whitman's grave; explores a crime-ravaged Detroit and a still-vital Chicago, where he visits a pig- slaughterhouse; races down to Arizona and up to Las Vegas (``the Kingdom of If''); and winds up in San Francisco. Throughout, he takes special interest in sociospiritual phenomena (religious communes; a Sikh village in New Mexico; rebirthing and past-life regression, both of which he undertakes with zest, etc.), emphasizing that ``paradoxically, the most materialistic country in the world is also the most spiritual.'' Witty, smart, and unpredictable. But America is more than its fringe, and Codrescu, with his yen for the bohemian and the bizarre, never quite uncovers the land's expansive, mainstream heart. (Seventy-four b&w photographs--some seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Codrescu, Andrei
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