WESTWARD WHOA: In the Wake of Lewis and Clark by W. Hodding Carter

WESTWARD WHOA: In the Wake of Lewis and Clark

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Carter and his friend Preston Maybank set out to follow the route Lewis and Clark took on their search for the Northwest Passage. This account is a bumpy mix of slacker comedy, natural history, and bathroom humor. Carter, a former staff writer at M magazine, begins with a brief description of his childhood fascination with Lewis and Clark, which was cut short by his lascivious daydreams about girls (daydreams that seem to have lingered, since an inordinate amount of space is devoted here to descriptions of attractive female teenagers encountered along the way). After christening their raft Sacagawea (after the Native American woman who acted as a guide for Lewis and Clark) with a cup of iced tea from McDonald's, the two set out from St. Louis way behind schedule and already quarreling over which of them is Lewis and which is Clark. Carter and Maybank soon begin to rely on modern conveniences, using credit cards, eating in diners, and eventually renting a car. Unfortunately, the two never seem to have a reason for their trip, other than perhaps to write this book. It seems that Carter is attempting to comment ironically on modern life, and there are glimmers of thoughtful comparison, too, as when they meet up with two Native Americans while fishing and Carter contrasts their encounter with the Lewis and Clark method, which was to shoot off an air gun to instill fear. In the end, Carter and Maybank seem to have taken themselves too seriously to satirize themselves effectively. For example, Carter is truly impressed with his own ability to identify animal droppings with the help of a guidebook. A good idea that putters out, due mostly to an indecisive narrative voice, and a fascination with young women and bowel movements.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paramount