Road scholar : coast to coast late in the century

by Andrei Codrescu

Hardcover, 1993




New York : Hyperion, 1993.


"Only Andrei Codrescu would have the nerve to undertake an On the Road for the 1990s." "Andrei Codrescu, the inimitable National Public Radio commentator and poet, decided to travel the United States of America in search of its wonderful excesses and ironies. He bought a cherry red '68 Cadillac convertible and drove from sultry New Orleans to old haunts in New York's East Village; from utopian communities in upstate New York to the urban ruins of Detroit; from the thriving commercial kingdom of Chicago to the New Age and Native American patchworks of New Mexico; from the gaudy wonderland of Las Vegas to the spiritual center of San Francisco. Along the way he chats with Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti; with an Illinois woman whose 1964 Pontiac sparks a heated First Amendment debate; with an urban artist whose work is regularly destroyed by Detroit maintenance workers; with a shooting instructor who gives lessons either clothed or (for a higher fee) unclothed; and with a punk band composed of citizens of the Sun City, Arizona, retirement community. Codrescu visits Ellis Island, Walt Whitman's grave, the McDonald's museum in Chicago (a perfectly preserved original 1955 vintage McDonald's restaurant), the National Atomic Museum at Kirtland Air Force Base, and a sausage factory in Detroit, and he gets rebirthed and undergoes crystal therapy in New Mexico. A camera crew followed, and the movie Road Scholar was created simultaneously with the book." "Codrescu's witty and poignant perceptions are always informed by recollections of his unusual upbringing in Stalinist Romania and his experiences of the changes in America from the revolutionary 1960s to the 1990s. Road Scholar is illustrated throughout with photographs of Andrei's odyssey by the acclaimed photographer David Graham, who translates the sometimes absurd realities of contemporary American culture into unforgettably iconic works of art. Funny, moving, and challenging, Road Scholar provides an entirely new perspective on the vast and varied contemporary American experience."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member NateJordon
A different sort of road novel; a brief examination of (then) modern America seen through the poetically inquisitive eyes of a Romanian immigrant. Though published in the 90s, Andrei Codrescu's observations still ring true twenty years later. Not just an outsider's view, Codrescu's is an outrider's view, which may be the perspective we need to see ourselves, as opposed to the mirror reflection we get accustomed to. I found this brief passage particularly poignant:

"The true American religion is speed. When you go fast you don’t notice much. In the Church of Speed, Inattention is God. If you go fast enough, you’ll take the approximate over the accurate . . . the copy over the original . . . the copy of the copy over the copy . . . the ideal cowboy over the bone-tired cowpoke . . . the mythic gunslinger over the petty criminal . . . the illusion over reality . . . the fast buck over the sweaty nickel."
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