Winnebago Nation: The RV in American Culture [NOOK Book]


There are close to 8.5 million RVs on the U.S. highways and roads today, and if you are a man in your fifties, there is a good chance you have owned or are about to own a recreational vehicle. Winnebago Nation is a light-hearted look at the culture and industry behind the yearning to spend the night in one's car. For the young, the roadtrip is a coming-of-age ceremony; for those later in life, it is the realization of a lifelong desire to be spontaneous, nomadic, and free.


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Winnebago Nation: The RV in American Culture

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There are close to 8.5 million RVs on the U.S. highways and roads today, and if you are a man in your fifties, there is a good chance you have owned or are about to own a recreational vehicle. Winnebago Nation is a light-hearted look at the culture and industry behind the yearning to spend the night in one's car. For the young, the roadtrip is a coming-of-age ceremony; for those later in life, it is the realization of a lifelong desire to be spontaneous, nomadic, and free.

James B. Twitchell recounts the RV's origins and evolution over the twentieth century; its rise, fall, and rebirth as a cultural icon; its growing mechanical complexity as it evolved from an estate wagon to a converted bus to a mobile home; and its role in bolstering and challenging conceptions of American identity. Mechanical yet dreamy, independent yet needful, solitary yet clubby, adventurous yet homebound, life in a mobile home is a distillation of the American character and an important embodiment of American exceptionalism (Richie Rich and Hobo Hank spend time in essentially the same rig at the same campground, albeit for different reasons and in different levels of comfort). The frontier may be tapped out, but we still yearn for the exploratory life. Twitchell concludes with his thoughts on the future of RV communities and the possibility of mobile cities becoming a real part of the American landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Twitchell (Living It Up: Our Love Affair with Luxury) traces the history of recreational vehicles and their archetypal place in American culture. Using an emic anthropological technique, the author studies the people who participate in this subculture by traveling in an RV himself. This methodology allows him to get to know the members of various tribes who have sold everything they own to buy an RV and spend their golden years traveling to faraway places and forming transitory communities along the way. Twitchell addresses the yearning for this lifestyle by examining the power of brand attraction utilized by RV companies to create loyalty and pointing to numerous contemporary media sources to argue that America's fascination with traveling this way hearkens back to westward expansionism. His most pithy argument, however, is that the ultimate romantic road-tripping generation in America is no longer capricious youth in convertible sports cars, but geriatrics crisscrossing the country in lumbering, moveable housing. The conclusion further suggests that they present a reflection of our increasing abilities to work remotely and may truly embody the nomadic nature of our species. VERDICT This work will make even the most skeptical reader appreciate the importance of the RV in American history—no mean feat.—Brian Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM
Michael Aaron Rockland

This engagingly written book looks deeply into the American character, concluding that for a nation of folks who came from elsewhere and have never stopped moving, the recreation vehicle is the artifact that best explains the American character. A mighty good read.

Doreen Orion

With a winning combination of Bill Bryson's dry wit and Mary Roach's eye for the absurd, Winnebago Nation is a historical, psychological, and cultural romp through the quirky landscape of RVing in America. Through it all, Twitchell never loses an educator's fascination with his subject, while maintaining his RV enthusiast's sense of adventure as he explores this uniquely American lifestyle.

David Counts

Twitchell brings his knowledge of history and literature to bear on the American love affair with the RV, in all it incarnations. RVing in America looks to be a never-ending story, and Twitchell tells it well. An amusing, entertaining, and informative read.

Kate Trant

Twitchell has unpacked a complex and often misunderstood culture, looking at it in a way that recognizes that it is about so much more than a means of transport. Winnebago Nation is an evocative and factual, well-written and well-illustrated exploration of RV culture in the United States. Any reader will want to take to the open road after putting the book down.

Cathy Stanton

Winnebago Nation draws on James B. Twitchell's own experiences as well as historical and sociological sources to explain the tremendous appeal of the RV for its aficionados, the disdain many Americans feel toward it, and the paradoxical qualities of a population of motorized nomads who seem to seek both individualistic escape and communitarian society. Twitchell locates his interpretation of these questions in the enduring mythos of the road and the frontier; in a lingering Puritanism that demands accountability along with freedom; and in the RV's ability to reconcile autonomy and belonging, wilderness and domesticity.

Al Hesselbart

An interesting and informative read that covers a very wide catalog of personal experiences from which every RVer can find parallels to his own travels.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231537650
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 4/8/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 739,519
  • File size: 17 MB
  • Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

Meet the Author

James B. Twitchell taught English and advertising at the University of Florida for many years and is the author of Adcult USA, Lead Us into Temptation, and Where Men Hide. He has traveled up and down the Eastern Seaboard in a small RV with his wife and driven across the Deep South, up to Newfoundland, and all the way to Alaska.

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Table of Contents

1. Thoreau at $4.00 a Gallon: The Peculiar Place of the RV in American Culture2. At Home on the Road: A Fleeting History of the American Dream in RVs3. Wheel Escape: Consumption Communities on the Road4. Park It: From Kampgrounds of America to the Slabs5. The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall and... of the RV in AmericaAcknowledgmentsIndex

Columbia University Press

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