America through English eyes: the aristocratic author of Portrait of a Marriage exchanges picturesque travelogue letters with his son as they independently explore the US. During three spring months of 1986, Nigel Nicolson, son of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West and cofounder of the publishing firm of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, drove on a zigzag course through the eastern United States while his son, Adam, staked out a western route. Nearly every day until they converged in Dodge City, they wrote to each other in-depth reports of their adventures, most commenting on people and places seen, but a few wrestling, embarrasingly so, with their slightly strained paternal/filial relationship. The Nicolsons share a finely tuned and often sharply wielded sensitivity to the peculiarities of each visited region (Adam's Las Vegas as ""the Devil's jacuzzi""; Nigel's depiction of an Austin so clean that ""one would hesitate to drop a piece of confetti in the gutter""); and between them, with Nigel generally interacting with the rich and the powerful, and Adam with the dispossessed and the young, they cover a good part of America's surface. But ultimately father and son's self-absorbed investigations and reflections tire, because, try as they may, they fail to penetrate and lay bare the soul of America; their observations, although acute, lack depth, and the two explorers remain like men looking at a celebration through a window, faces lit up in wonderment but unable to get inside. No Travels with Charlie with a British accent; for all its energy, minute observation, and sly wit, the Nicholsons' portrait of America remains as flat as a road map.