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Month in review

Reviews
Adulthood Is a Myth by Sarah Andersen
The Amazing World of Gumball: After School Special by Ben Boquelet
Anna's Corn by Barbara Santucci
The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn
The Better Country by Dallas Lore Sharp
Boy Dumplings by Ying Chang Compestine
Brownies and Broomsticks by Bailey Cates
California by Edan Lepucki
Camera and Lens by Ansel Adams
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Over the Moon by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cleopatra in Space: The Thief and the Sword by Mike Maihack
Draw! by Raúl Colón
Giant Days, Volume 3 by John Allison, Max Sarin, and Whitney Cogar
Goodnight June by Sarah Jio
Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
I Love Him to Pieces by Evonne Tsang
Jem and the Holograms, Volume 2: Viral by Kelly Thompson
A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
Scarecrow Magic by Ed Masessa
The 78-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton
Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella
Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood
The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks
The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Tagged by Diane C. Mullen
This Land I Love: Waterloo County by Carl Hiebert
Waiting is Not Easy! by Mo Willems
Witches' Bane by Susan Wittig Albert
XO, OX: A Love Story by Adam Rex

Miscellaneous
Armchair BEA introductions
April 2017 Inclusive Reading Report
Best Practices
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 01)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 08)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 15)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 22)
It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (May 29)
Mapping the roads of the American nightmare
Read Our Own Books - April 2017

Previous month

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



Mapping the roads of the American nightmare: 05/21/17

Mapping the American nightmare through the darkest of road narratives.

Turning my attention back to literary analysis, I've started reading American Road Narratives by Ann Brigham (2015). The book was published the year I decided to jumpstart my research from 1995. This book has made a few important points for my research: first, my reading in the last two year's has been on track. Although I'm no longer part of academia, I was able to navigate my way through current trends in road narrative analysis. Second, I am getting a better sense of what I want to focus on.

With the road narrative genre it is tempting to divide things into to clear cut binaries. I spent much of my first six months diagraming a crazy spider web of binaries. It quickly became too complex to track and too unfocused. But the exercise game me a few binaries I was interested in pursuing further. I pared them down to seven — rather like a color wheel of tropes or sub-genres.

The sub-genres mapped out as a color wheel

    They are:
  • Urban vs Rural
  • Utopia vs Dystopia
  • On the road vs There and Back Again
  • Driving While...
  • All Roads Lead to vs the Road Not Taken
  • Crossing the Cornfield (either to escape or to incarcerate)
  • Autokind vs Mankind

Brigham's introduction, though, offers an insight into the genre that has made me rethink my focus. She contends that "this genre has primarily been read in terms of familiar binaries: home/away, domesticity/mobility, conformity/rebellion, stasis/movement, confinement/liberation." (p. 8). She goes on to add that her reading of the genre is one of interaction with society, and one of transgression of social mores, "...because because so many road scholars understand mobility as an inherently positive and liberating form of transgression that subverts and transcends social order." (p. 9). What her thesis seems to ignore is horrific, the dangers, the monsters lurking off the beaten path — the threat to standing still — basically all the things that fall into the "crossing the cornfield" trope.

What this means for my research, is that while I continue to read through the road narrative analysis books I have on hand, I should continue to explore the paranormal aspects of the genre — the places where the road narrative intersects with urban fantasy and horror. That means beginning a close rewatching of Supernatural, a closer re-reading of the Oz books, and things in between. We're talking crossroad demons, ghostly hitchhikers, urban myths, snake oil salesmen, and so forth.

It does mean that my research is taking a metaphorical turn and is completely removed from my original project (semantics of real world urban design influencing our ontological understanding of road narratives).

My reason for this tangent is that I'm not particularly interested in yet another reading of road trip as an expression of being American — or as Brigham suggests, a way of becoming more American. Although I agree with her that the road trip part of the road narrative is a quintessentially American genre, I believe the genre is more nuanced that just being a reaffirmation of American values, or a discussion across physical space of those values, or even a transgression of said values. The road has become such a part of the North American psyche to be part our nightmares. I am saying "North American" because my readings include examples from both Canada and Mexico as well as the United States.

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