THE ROADS TAKEN by Fred Setterberg


Travels Through America's Literary Landscapes
Email this review


 A smart and unsentimental journey to a few forgotten or overlooked American literary landmarks; winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction. Setterberg's odyssey begins when his road-struck young cousin visits him in San Francisco (where the author, a freelance business writer, lives with Kerouac's sofa) and reawakens in him the sense of adventure that had inspired him to travel 20 years before. Visiting Texas with a friend, Lonnie, while collaborating on a magazine article on small towns, Setterberg discovers--instead of the heroism associated with the landscape of Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove--an urban and polluted world. In Nebraska with another friend, Ann, the author encounters the dual works of innocence and evil, of Willa Cather and serial-killer Charles Starkweather. Setterberg considers the corruption of journalism and of travel writing when he meets yet another old pal in Virginia City, the Nevada boomtown where Mark Twain, the artist of fraudulent journalism, got his start. In New Orleans, Setterberg meditates on Zora Neale Thurston, as well as on racism, music, and dance. Moving north, he explores with Ann the upper peninsula of Michigan--the world of Hemingway's ``Big Two-Hearted River''--and searches for a moose in the backwoods of Maine, walking in Thoreau's footsteps, each step offering a different ``gift'' to his imagination. The final chapter, poignant and surprising, describes a ferry ride between Oakland and San Francisco, taken with Setterberg's father. The two discuss Jack London, an author who brings them together with his celebration of ``strong hands and rough wits.'' There is much art here, and much sense, but mostly genial, articulate, and discerning guidance to some obscure places in America and in the mind.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-8203-1517-6
Page count: 166pp
Publisher: Univ. of Georgia
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1993