An American Scrapbook
by Jonathan Raban | Picador
Ostensibly a travel writer and novelist, Jonathan Raban’s Driving Home, a collection of his journalism from the last 20 years, might sit more happily under the label of reportage.
Here he brings together ‘readings of the American landscape, literature and politics, along with some backward glances to England … more or less in the same order in which they were written’. As such, the book does not appear to take the reader in any particular direction, homeward or otherwise, except that it provides an unfettered account of a writer’s arrival and attempt to settle in a land that remains to him strange, yet beautiful, yet repellent.[quote style=”boxed”]A must-read for fans of this writer, and a fine aside for fans of the USA[/quote]
Raban came to America from England in 1990, moving to Seattle ‘for casual and disreputable reasons’ – he met a woman – and the accounts contained in this volume explore his shock at discovering that, despite arriving with a deep knowledge and understanding of the USA, he was ‘floundering out of his depth’.
Much of his focus centres on the Pacific North-west and a yearning for a previous era, pre-Microsoft, when the land was home to boat-builders and loggers, not ‘big-city hobbyists’.
But whatever falls under his spotlight, be it the Mississippi, Gore Vidal or the imminent arrival of Obama into the Presidency, Raban provides his own peculiar and precise critique of the land he now calls home, full of cultural and historical observation and littered with his own dry, droll humour.
The result is a must-read for fans of the writer, and a fine, if full, aside for fans of the USA.