RoadFrames: The American Highway Narrative

Overview

RoadFrames surveys America's fascination with highway travel. In a lively discussion of books written as early as 1903 and as recently as 1994, Kris Lackey reveals the crucial roles that highway and automobile travel have played through generations of American writing. RoadFrames illuminates many of the grandiose myths and unsentimental realities that have shaped modern American life. Lackey examines - and debunks - the theme of rediscovering America, with drivers seeking to escape industrialized America and ...
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02/1999 Trade pb Fine. No dust jacket. First printing. 180 p.; 0. 45" x 8. 00" x 6. 04". -92 1998, FIRST BISON BOOKS PRINTING

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Overview

RoadFrames surveys America's fascination with highway travel. In a lively discussion of books written as early as 1903 and as recently as 1994, Kris Lackey reveals the crucial roles that highway and automobile travel have played through generations of American writing. RoadFrames illuminates many of the grandiose myths and unsentimental realities that have shaped modern American life. Lackey examines - and debunks - the theme of rediscovering America, with drivers seeking to escape industrialized America and recover a mythic innocence and independence. He also traces the influence of Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman in such automobile travelers as John Steinbeck, Tom Wolfe, and Jack Kerouac. There is an insightful discussion of road books by African American writers who reverse the romantic assumptions of many white travelers, creating highway narratives in which escape and nostalgia are not possible. The book concludes with a discussion of seven novels, extending from Sinclair Lewis's Free Air to Stephen Wright's Going Native.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though not for the "general audience" touted in the Preface (sentences such as "[Heat-Moon] conflates the decimation of the Plains Indians and the subsequent obliteration of regional folkways by commercial icons and specialized labor" limit the readership), Lackey's "extended meditation on the shadow texts of American road books written between 1903 and 1994" is an unusually lively, astute and persuasive work. Lackey, an English professor at the University of New Orleans, draws from standards such as On the Road and Grapes of Wrath to forgotten pulp novels such as Thomas and Agnes Wilby's On the Trail to Sunset. Most notably, he devotes one of his five chapters to an exploration of African American road works, showing a difference between white travelers, who can escape their old selves while on the road, and black ones, who cannot. In his other chapters, Lackey addresses psychological differences between train and car travel, "highway consciousness," the Transcendentalist roots of many road books and seven novels he calls "romances of the road." Lackey's orientation is latter-day Marxist or "new historicist," with women's perspectives given surprisingly short shrift. Further, for all his invocation of Thoreau and Emerson as patron saints of the genre, Lackey skips over a troubling contradiction in their work: while both advocated spiritual travel, they also distrusted literal, physical travel, Emerson calling it a "fool's paradise" in his essay "Self-Reliance." Lackey might have focused more on finding the line between the metaphorical and the literal "road." (Sept.)
Library Journal
The lure of traveling America to escape the travails of life and gain new independence has been a favorite theme for American writers since the early 1800s. Such classics as Walden, The Grapes of Wrath, and On the Road have contributed to the romance of the road. Lackey (English, Univ. of New Orleans) surveys the role that the highway and automobile travel have played in American writing. Concentrating on nearly forgotten nonfiction titles, Lackey seeks to debunk the romantic idea of rediscovering America through the highway and the automobile. Of particular poignancy is a chapter on how African American narratives have shown that the highway often holds no romance for them. Lackey ends with a discussion of seven road novels sure to send the reader to the nearest library to rediscover them. Recommended for all libraries.Ronald Ratliff, Chapman H.S. Lib., Kan.
Chronicle of Higher Education

"There are two impulses after reading Kris Lackey’s RoadFrames: The American Highway Narrative. One is to rush into a library. The other is to jump into a car. . . . The author manages to convey the deep appeal of endless asphalt while still debunking many of the myths of Americans’ romance with the road."—Chronicle of Higher Education
Journal of American Studies

"In this short but densely packed work, Kris Lackey muses upon more than ninety years of American road writing…The end product is a book that is at once intellectually stimulating, freshly illuminating, and broadly accessible."—Journal of American Studies.
Times Literary Supplement

"Lackey applies with relish a number of convincing ideas to a variety of novels and travel books. Beginning with America’s first intercoastal highway narrative, From Ocean to Ocean in a Winton, and concluding with the postmodern rush of Stephen Wright’s Going Native, he offers a sense of wide vistas. . . . This is a book designed to connect its readers to other books, while providing conclusive evidence that America’s literature may indeed be as expansive as its map."—Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803279810
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1999
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 6.04 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author


Kris Lackey is a professor of English at the University of New Orleans.
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