American nomads Travels with lost conquistadors, mountain men, cowboys, Indians, hoboes, and bullriders

Richard Grant, 1963-

Book - 2003

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Subjects
Published
New York : Grove Press c2003.
Language
English
Item Description
Originally published: London: Little, Brown.
Physical Description
311 p. ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN
9780802141804
0802117635
Main Author
Richard Grant, 1963- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Grant, an English writer who has written for GQ and Esquire, has penned a travelogue par excellence, cloaked in the robes of a sociological examination of the American nomad. Resolved to leave his own sedentary life, the author spends time with an assortment of truckers, rodeo cowboys, RV-ers, and wanna-be Indians (usually white computer geeks looking for escape). He examines, too, records of some of the genuine nomads of our past, such as the explorer Cabeza de Vaca, the Indian hunter horse tribes, and the legendary frontiersman Joe Walker. Readers may feel a certain sadness about the artificiality of some modern versions of nomadism, especially during a passage in which, at a gathering of would-be American Indians, Grant searches for the genuine article. This is a wondrous essay, documenting a style of life that eschews government authority--property taxes, drug laws, gun laws, nudity laws, truancy laws, and sexual age-of-consent laws. For all the problems inherent in such a lifestyle, readers may still fantasize about what life could be like away from the rat race. ((Reviewed November 15, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Grant, a young Englishman who has spent the better part of 15 years wandering somewhat aimlessly through the Western states of America, here offers his views. His definition of America as a "restless land" is a good one; he has spoken, bunked, ridden, and wandered with a variety of "restless" Americans, including truck drivers, rodeo performers, tramps, hippies, and grandparents. His writing is as restless as his travels; a description of how horses were introduced to the West leads to a look at prehistoric ancestors of the modern horse and then at a discussion of contemporary Mormonism. He often describes the seedy side of American life, but he maintains a wicked sense of humor throughout the book that makes it consistently entertaining and informative. Recommended for public libraries of all sizes.-Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this cogent but uneven meditation on American wanderers past and present, British writer Grant, who has written for GQ and Esquire, parallels his own travels through the American Southwest with those of earlier explorers, conquerors, cowboys, Indians, bikers and hoboes. In 1985, the author, without prospects and sick of London's dreary weather, escaped to the U.S. He's spent the past 15 years feeding his "wanderlust, restlessness, itchy feet, antsy pants, white-line fever," crisscrossing the country, but sticking mainly to the Southwest. Along the way, he has grappled with certain questions, internally and in the articles he has written to finance his travels. As he puts it in his prologue, "What drove a man to spend his life in motion? Was it a natural human impulse, recognised and obeyed, or was it a disease of the soul? Why was the type so prevalent in America...?" To find the answers, he hung out at all-night truck stops, chatted with grizzled hitchhikers and rail tramps, and attended love and peace fests (including the popular Rainbow gatherings). He also spent time in libraries, researching the history of the wanderers-both native and European-who came before him. While certain profiles (e.g., of early Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca and mountain man Joe Walker) do absorb, Grant occasionally strays into the extraneous (a too-long chronicle of the horse's introduction into North America and a spotty history of the notorious Freight Train Riders of America are particular examples). It makes for a lively, though sometimes tiring, pastiche of travelogue and regurgitated history. Agent, Johnny Geller. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

In a richly textured travelogue, a British journalist recounts his fifteen-year odyssey throughout the United States, examining the myths and realities of the wandering life as he recalls his encounters with America's nomads and traces the history of wanderers--cowboys, explorers, frontiersmen, trappers, and Native American warriors--in the New World. Reprint.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Fascinated by the land of endless horizons, sunshine, and the open road, Richard Grant spent fifteen years wandering throughout the United States, never spending more than three weeks in one place and getting to know America?s nomads ? truckers, tramps, rodeo cowboys, tie-dyed concert followers, flea market traders, retirees who live year round in their RV?s, and the murderous Freight Train Riders of America (FTRA). In a richly comic travelogue, Grant uses these lives and his own to examine the myths and realities of the wandering life, and its contradiction with the sedentary American dream.Along with a personal account, American Nomads traces the history of wandering in the New World, through vividly told stories of frontiersmen, fur trappers and cowboys, Comanche and Apache warriors, all the way back to the first Spanish explorers who crossed the continent. What unites these disparate characters, as they range back and forth across the centuries, is a stubborn conviction that the only true freedom is to roam across the land.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Fascinated by the land of endless horizons, sunshine, and the open road, Richard Grant spent fifteen years wandering throughout the United States, never spending more than three weeks in one place and getting to know America's nomads, truckers, tramps, rodeo cowboys, tie-dyed concert followers, flea market traders, retirees who live year round in their RVs, and the murderous Freight Train Riders of America (FTRA). In a richly comic travelogue, Grant uses these lives and his own to examine the myths and realities of the wandering life and its contradiction with the sedentary American dream. Along with a personal account, American Nomads traces the history of wandering in the New World, through vividly told stories of frontiersmen, fur trappers and cowboys, Comanche and Apache warriors, all the way back to the first Spanish explorers who crossed the continent. What unites these disparate characters, as they range back and forth across the centuries, is a stubborn conviction that the only true freedom is to roam across the land.