MILES FROM NOWHERE by Dayton Duncan

MILES FROM NOWHERE

Tales from America's Contemporary Frontier

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Duncan's Out West (1987), which retraced the route of Lewis and Clark, took the author to some remote locales--but to nothing like the outposts of civilization that he reports on in this solid, well-informed survey of the 132 counties in the American West that have population densities of fewer than two people per square mile. Duncan calls these counties--which sprawl over 15 states, with the greatest number in Texas, Montana, and Nebraska--the ``contemporary frontier,'' and indeed there's an aura of rugged individualism about their scattered inhabitants that harkens back to the classic frontier. But there's also ``an undercurrent of paranoia,'' Duncan says, bred by a vulnerability to an ex-rural America that uses these regions as waste dumps, nuclear-missile sites, and so on. It's this sort of unsentimental, balanced view of his subjects, backdropped by an in-depth historical framework, that gives Duncan's travelogue its resonance (though he displays neither the wit of an Ian Frazier nor the poetry of a Gary Paulsen) as he describes the many months he spent traveling the territory in a GMC Suburban (``a station wagon on steroids'') that he christened the Conestoga. Typical of the counties is Nebraska's Banner County, with 1.1 people per square mile, whose businesses number a bank, two cafes, some home shops, and two hairdressers. Typical of the people the author met is the Texas UPS driver whose average day covered 338 miles in 12 hours--really just a Sunday drive in the American vastness that Duncan explores from myriad angles, covering ethnic groups (many Native Americans, few blacks); environment (harsh); crime (low); politics (often libertarian); death (often violent); grit and courage (endemic), and on and on. Sharply observed, literate travel writing that drives home just how big--and big-souled--this country really is. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs, one map--not seen)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-670-83195-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1993




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