UNEASY RIDER by Mike Bryan


The Interstate Way of Knowledge
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 Much of this drive-through view of the Southwest is disjointed and overly opinionated, a perplexing blend of Americana, cathartic anger, and ego. From the outset, Bryan (Dogleg Madness, 1988, etc.) searches for an ever-elusive unifying theme that presumably is built on the synecdoche of the interstate highway as representative of present- day America. This works to the extent that the people he meets are a varied and industrious lot. Bryan visits a snake farm where tourists can purchase mice to throw in the pits, and he rides with Texas state troopers apprehending speeders. He spends time with casino dealers in Laughlin, Nev., and with the manager of the sludge dump in Sierra Blanca, Tex., which receives its product from New York City. Motel owners, truckers, hitchhikers, ranchers (including the proprietor of a ``no smoking'' ranch), restaurateurs--they are all here, and one admires Bryan's doggedness and benefits from his wide-ranging interests. However, an equally large segment of the book is comprised of frequently demeaning observations about Texans, Republicans, Christians, and anyone else not smart enough to have moved, like Texas-born Bryan, to New York City. For instance, people who voted for Nixon in 1960 were ``neither imaginative nor creative.'' A particularly extraneous and self-pitying, as well as unnecessarily graphic, section concerns Bryan and his wife's failed in-vitro fertilization treatment. A visit to his aged grandmother elicits a curiously cavalier reaction to her deteriorating mental state: The ``lilt and twinkle in her eye'' when she is unable to remember something from her past is ``enchanting.'' Her burial in the book's last chapter is likewise bloodless. Had Bryan stuck to his often praiseworthy descriptions of lost Texas towns or the small but meaningful pursuits of citizens on and along the interstates, this would have been a far greater pleasure to read.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-41671-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997


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