Morris does an especially lovely job of elevating the ordinary. Men without much money or glamour to their lives smoke and drink, ride the bus, and sit home alone in the evenings; he makes it beautiful, transmuting daily existence into something gleaming and sensual the way a car’s dull steel frame shines with chrome. Morris notices a neighborhood with ‘glass glittering on the sidewalks, houses in need of paint, black bruises on the street where cars had leaked their vital fluids.’ Placing a call to Alabama, Doyle imagines ‘Rod Steiger sitting at a desk chain-smoking cigarettes and sending gouts of tobacco juice into a Maxwell House coffee can while the blades of a ceiling fan chopped the foggy air.’ One man’s face ‘sagged like a melting candle.’
In addition to just wanting to spend a lot of time together, we had some questions we hoped this trip might answer, questions we hope to chew over here, in near-daily posts: What does the Great American Road trip look like in 2014? Is it true that the book tour is as good as dead, a waste of time? Is this about selling books or something less tangible? What will we see as we cut a line through the center of a recession-slammed America? Can we sit in a car together for 13,000 minutes and come out better buddies, or will one of us, probably somewhere in Utah, turn to the other and mutter, ‘I really really wish I could quit you’?
The film focuses on Daniel McGowan, the son of a Brooklyn cop who experiences a “sense of mourning” once he becomes aware of mankind’s many environmental sins. He participates in multiple acts of arson as ELF cells launch a freelance sabotage campaign against lumber mills, logging equipment, horse corrals, meat-packing plants, genetics labs, tree farms, even ski resorts. Hovering over the film is a question: Are these activists terrorists, as the government would have us believe, or are they avenging angels performing a vital service, as they themselves believe? Curry, to his credit, refuses to offer a tidy answer.
There are book tours and then there are book tours. You either get the full-scale, all-expenses-paid treatment from your publisher, or else you get a request to plan it all and pay for it all yourself. In the weeks after his latest novel came out, our own Bill Morris set off on a DIY tour — all driving, no flying — about which he’s been writing dispatches for The Daily Beast. This week, he thinks about the changing nature of book promotion, recounts his nights in dumpy motels and compares his experience to that of our own Edan Lepucki. (FYI, they talked about writing their novels in a Millions piece.)
Independent bookstores provide “intimate contact…vital to both readers and writers – and it’s something that can’t be replicated online. For readers, it’s a chance to get inside the process of how books get made. For writers, who spend years in solitude putting words on a page, it’s an invaluable chance to connect with their audience.”
Tuesday New Release Day
Our own Bill Morris has a new novel on shelves this week, which you can learn more about in his recent conversation with our own Edan Lepucki. Also out: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman; Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke; All I Love and Know by Judith Frank; Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen; The Hour of Lead by Bruce Holbert; The Spark and the Drive by Wayne Harrison; Owen’s Daughter by Jo-Ann Mapson; and Season to Taste by Natalie Young. Support The Millions: Bookmark this link and start there when you shop at Amazon.
Now we drive, hermetically sealed in sleek,
engines silent as stealth,
traveling through the world like something preserved
in glass jars,
shutting out the sounds and smells of summer –
the drone of cicadas and lawnmowers,
the musk of new-mown grass.
Zacharias, who had previously published a collection of short stories and two novels, brings a pair of vital skills to the enterprise of essay writing: she notices, and she remembers. These skills are invaluable to any writer, but especially so to the creator of the kind of deeply personal essays Zacharias has produced in this collection. When noticing and remembering are fused, as they are here, they can breathe life into anything, from the most intimate moments to the most cosmic subjects – the nature of light, writers’ workplaces, a father’s suicide, the visible and invisible lessons of the Grand Canyon, even the surprising allure of buzzards.