HIGHWAY: America's Endless Dream by Bernd & Phil Patton Polster

HIGHWAY: America's Endless Dream

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There is something distinctive, revealing, and often quite sad about the life along America's major highways. The truck stops, motels, and idiosyncratic roadside attractions are all uniquely American, as is the fate of the towns that grew up along a stretch of highway, succeeded by servicing travelers, and dwindled once newer highways carried interstate travelers elsewhere. Highway is an intermittently effective tour of these precincts, featuring old photographs of roads and (primarily western) highway communities, recent color photographs by Jeff Brouws, and essays by Patton and Polster on the history and influence of some of America's interstates, and on literature and films in which the highway has figured. The essays provide a useful overview, but break no new ground. Some of Brouws's photographs--of abandoned motels and gas stations, dusty small-town storefronts, roads on which neon signs seem the only animate thing--are startling and moving. Too often, though, the view here is one-sided: People seem purposefully exiled from the shots, and the emphasis on decay begins to feel a little self-indulgent and dogmatic. Robert Frank, who usually placed people in even his bleakest American landscapes, remains the master of higway art. Much here seems rather superficial.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1997
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: "Stewart, Tabori & Chang"