BADLANDS by Robert Minhinnick


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 Welsh essayist-tourist Minhinnick travels selected irrational backwaters with a combination of Martin Amislike hyperbolic prose and Bruce Chatwinlike wanderlust. Whether trucking relief supplies to post-Communist Albania, reconnoitering his native Wales, or aimlessly wandering California's schizoid landscape, Minhinnick is always on the watch for the incongruous juxtapositions of postmodern life, as well as for a striking simile. At home he turns up a prehistoric barrow, carefully posted by the English Heritage society, nearby a crop circle during the New Age hoax's epidemic; and he endures the media spectacle of watching the Welsh soccer team's match against post-Ceauescu Romania for the World Cup qualifying finals. In the fruitfully weird USA, he finds an eccentric fellow traveler in ``Mars'' Barlow, an asthmatic, sugar-addicted college instructor who teaches ``prairie children prairie literature'' and shoplifts Heidegger and X-Files paperbacks. Minhinnick's trips on interstate bus rides and to dinosaur-fossil parks in the original badlands are accompanied by Mars's breathless rants on televised executions, UFOs, militias, and the word ``vug'' (a Cornish mining term). By himself in California, Minhinnick unearths such oddities as a jogger killed by a mountain lion attracted by her musk perfume and recycling fanatic Frank Schiavo's legal battles to exempt himself from garbage taxes. Sometimes Minhinnick's entertaining, high-altitude flights of rhetoric overshoot the ground he's trying to cover, such as the current state of England or an array of travel vignettes. Just as often, though, these ironic, impressionistic essays spread out an expansive map of the world's absurd zones; the most notable are his experiences in Albania, where the children are no longer named after dictator Enver Hoxha but after Elvis and Clinton instead. Not quite crazy enough for true gonzo writing. Minhinnick nonetheless turns up enough fear and loathing during his global road trips.

Pub Date: Feb. 3rd, 1997
ISBN: 1-85411-157-4
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Dufour
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1996


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