Uneasy Riderby Mike Bryan
The ultimate road book, and arguably the finest, Uneasy Rider forgoes the traditional blue highways and scenic nooks and crannies left behind in America's tidal wake, and travels instead on six-lane blacktop into the heart of our society today. With Mike Bryan you're in the company of an adept listener and a funny, learned, and profoundly sympathetic man. His chosen… See more details below
The ultimate road book, and arguably the finest, Uneasy Rider forgoes the traditional blue highways and scenic nooks and crannies left behind in America's tidal wake, and travels instead on six-lane blacktop into the heart of our society today. With Mike Bryan you're in the company of an adept listener and a funny, learned, and profoundly sympathetic man. His chosen beat stretches west from Texas to New Mexico and Arizona toward the City of Angels in the Golden State - the chimerical destination of any decent American pilgrim. Along the way he uncovers much that is new and revelatory about our nation and fellow citizens, a hard-working, various lot including snake ranchers and state troopers, truckers and hitchhikers, motel-keepers and visionaries large and small. Fair hearing is given to one and all, whether wheeler-dealers, immigrants, border smugglers, or people who became near-aboriginals when the interstate turned Route 66 into outback. And between these encounters Bryan contemplates history, both public - pioneering, roadmaking, assassination theories at Dealey Plaza, the oil business, agriculture, waste-dumping, gambling, you name it - and personal. The Bryan family comes from rural Texas, after all, though an ambivalent rootlessness has marked Bryan's own life - and is also, some claim, a defining characteristic for much of the population.
From the outset, Bryan (Dogleg Madness, 1988, etc.) searches for an ever-elusive unifying theme that presumably is built on the synecdoche of the interstate highway as representative of present- day America. This works to the extent that the people he meets are a varied and industrious lot. Bryan visits a snake farm where tourists can purchase mice to throw in the pits, and he rides with Texas state troopers apprehending speeders. He spends time with casino dealers in Laughlin, Nev., and with the manager of the sludge dump in Sierra Blanca, Tex., which receives its product from New York City. Motel owners, truckers, hitchhikers, ranchers (including the proprietor of a "no smoking" ranch), restaurateursthey are all here, and one admires Bryan's doggedness and benefits from his wide-ranging interests. However, an equally large segment of the book is comprised of frequently demeaning observations about Texans, Republicans, Christians, and anyone else not smart enough to have moved, like Texas-born Bryan, to New York City. For instance, people who voted for Nixon in 1960 were "neither imaginative nor creative." A particularly extraneous and self-pitying, as well as unnecessarily graphic, section concerns Bryan and his wife's failed in-vitro fertilization treatment. A visit to his aged grandmother elicits a curiously cavalier reaction to her deteriorating mental state: The "lilt and twinkle in her eye" when she is unable to remember something from her past is "enchanting." Her burial in the book's last chapter is likewise bloodless.
Had Bryan stuck to his often praiseworthy descriptions of lost Texas towns or the small but meaningful pursuits of citizens on and along the interstates, this would have been a far greater pleasure to read.
- Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated
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