Imagine taking a road trip through Iowa with a chatty Jack Kerouac in the passenger seat and Dwight D. Eisenhower sitting impatiently beside a disinterested Jackson Pollock in the back seat.
The personalities contained in this book are so large that they merit their own time and space. Of course, the lives of these three significant figures have been well-documented in numerous books. What Hanick (Creative Writing/Murray State Univ.) achieves is neither solely biography nor journalistic retelling but rather the intersection of these iconic American personalities threaded together with the author’s coming-of-age. Hanick explores the mysterious presence of Jackson Pollock’s watershed Mural at the University of Iowa Museum of Art and muses on his relationship to Kerouac’s On The Road, the original scroll of which made a stop at the same museum. The author then mixes in Eisenhower and the executive weight behind the construction of the American Interstate Highway System. The idea here occasionally proves too ambitious, and the narrative is rife with expressionistic fragments and hanging conditionals that, on the road to poignancy, are often cut off in favor of a new idea or newly introduced information. The result feels incomplete or burdened by academic conjecture, though the fragmentary nature of the work gives it an element of mystery, and its subject matter alone is enough to keep readers interested. Hanick manages to braid moments of poetic confession and biographical detail with enough skill to paint a new perspective on the history of an American vanguard.
As ambitious as our perennial desire to discover the road less traveled, as expressionistic as Pollock’s action paintings, and as poetically driven as the Beat generation, this book is equal parts mystery, journalism, poetry and bildungsroman, ultimately in search of its own American voice.