CHASING THE GLORY: Travels Across America by Michael Parfit

CHASING THE GLORY: Travels Across America

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From the author of the acclaimed South Light (1986), a perceptive, sometimes overpainted account of a yearlong, 25,000-mile solo tour of America in a 1968 Cessna Cardinal airplane (with a tiny motorcycle for ground travel), following a course set decades ago by Lindbergh. Parfit starts with some pretentious nattering about his craft, which he calls ""creative nonfiction"" but which most will just call quality journalism. He follows this up with some overwrought clichÉs and some nearly unintelligible lyric prose (""Songs of passion forever beg for one more night, in hope that time will stop; if I sleep again in the arms of the land, will the restlessness end?""). Happily, things improve mightily when he clambers into the cockpit and soars off from western Montana. He visits a California state fair, jaws with a border patrolman, visits the hottest town in the US (Gila Bend, Ariz.), eats blueberry pizza in Texas, meets fishermen in Oklahoma. Along the way, he converses with some invisible cockpit companions, including Charlie Lindbergh himself. Real, live people pop up as well: oddballs and kindly folks, scientists and soldiers, all drawn with skill. Parfit's memories of his one-time foster child, now worn-out and battle-scarred in Wichita, ring with genuine feeling. But his best comes when he sketches the landscape, both sky and ground. Of an approaching storm: ""In the evening the stars were slowly smothered. The horizon flickered. The flickering grew like a windblown fire."" A paean to the bliss of aerial travel and a captivating read, although too much purple paint and too little focus mean that this never quite catches the glory it chases.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1988
Publisher: Macmillan