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Detour ahead: 04/21/17
A little over two years ago I found my old handwritten bibliography of a road narrative project I would have done had I continued on with film theory, and gone for a PhD. Rather than just feeling nostalgic for what might have been, I decided to free up time for the project by dumping ARCs. In the last six months or so, the road narrative project has hit a lull for a variety of reasons, with the two main ones being I needed a break from the academic side of the project and I had fallen behind in the transcribing of notes.
Another couple of projects have crept into my life too: preparing to move (though not originally to Canada as planed) and the moving the blog to a vanity domain. The first of these requires time away from books and the computer to ironically pack books (without reading). The second, though, requires oodles of computer time as I'm redesigning all of my lede images to make them bigger and more eye catching. As I do that, I'm tinkering with the code to get rid of code rot and piles of legacy stuff that seems to collect in the commented out sections.
In working through my older pages, I've come across many posts I've already, both here and on Tumblr, where I dump a lot of my raw research — quotes, musings, old photographs, etc. In particular, I came across a quote from Romance of the Road by Ronald Primeau (1996) where I had summed up the state of my project, a year into the work.
In hundreds of books, movies, poems, songs, and videos, the road journey is an epic quest, a pilgrimage, a romance, a ritual that helps explain where Americans have been and where they think they might be going. (Primeau: 1996, p. 1)
Below it I listed screenshots from my GoodReads "roadtrip" shelf, pointing out all the books I had identified as being part of my project. They were a mixture of academic literature studies, government works about road building, novels, poetry collections, and memoirs of road trips. So today, I present you with an updated version of that list with annotations. Checkmarks on the cover art show which ones I've read to give a sense of where I am.
Going through the list, seeing them all together, gave me a chance to rediscover literature studies, memoirs, and older fiction I had forgotten about, as I followed thematic tangents in my reading. I have a few books now requested at the library, and a couple more requested through inter-library loan. I think it's time to see where my mapping of the road narrative compares with those who have come before me.
In this project I haven't looked for previously defined genres or categories. Instead, I have marked the path of my reading, marking off the narrative landscape. In my journey I've come to realize that almost any American story can be mapped in the road narrative landscape. We live and die by the road. We define ourselves by our proximity to it, and how fast we can travel it.
My categories are still fluid. They change as I read more — as I understand common themes and tropes in a greater context. In February 2017, I posted my first delineation of categories. Back then, my newest category was "'sent to the cornfield." Now I am calling it "Crossing the cornfield." Movement through the cornfield — or inability to move through it — is the central tenant of this category.
My other goal is to start writing more essays based on my reading. I need to write more essays to get my thoughts and observations down. It's time to draw my map of the road narrative landscape.