As we mentioned earlier, the Urchins are embarking on our first ever Urchin road trip. In preparation for our journey, we look to the interesting minds that have done it before us. Here it is – the Urchin Book Trunk!
We thought it’d be appropriate to learn about this ‘great American experience’ from a Frenchwoman. In 1947, Simone de Beauvoir spent five months in America on an extended lecture circuit, living in New York while visiting Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and embarking on road trips of her own. Her curiosity in trying to understand this country matches our own, and we live here!
No travel literature list would be complete without Mr. Bill Bryson, Urchinspiration extraordinaire! An American expatriate who’s lived in the UK for many years (sigh), Bryson can give us the perspective we need in the humourous writing we love.
Whilst living in London, we watched Stephen Fry’s six-episode special Stephen Fry in America and thoroughly enjoyed the hilarious and informative look at our native country through the eyes of a citizen of our adopted country. This book is the literary companion to that television series and will no doubt provide some insight on the places we will be passing through. As well as constant laughter.
This Gothic classic has been overlooked since its 1962 publication. Not only does this novella have a great title, but it takes place in Bennington, Vermont, the last destination of our trip and current dwelling of Sarah. If anything mysterious happens to us, we’ll be sure to get it on film.
One of the defining works of a generation and movement, Kerouac’s classic quasi-autobiographical novel has inspired the likes of Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Tom Waits, and Hunter S. Thompson. Our hero, Sal Paradise’s journey back and forth across America parallels the journey and change of social values and norms.
Edna St. Vincent Millay was the first woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Inspired by some dear friends and fellow Urchins, we’ll bring Edna along for the road trip and share her poetry with each other and the scenery of the American Northeast.
Travel literature can be hit-and-miss, but it’s usually a hit when written by a proven literary heavyweight, especially if that writer was an American expatriate who’s lived in Paris (again, sigh) writing about America.
In 1960, Steinbeck hit the road to, as Frasier would say, reacquaint himself with America. He travels with Charley. Charley is Steinbeck’s French poodle. This is the book they wrote together. What’s not to like?
In the mid-1800s, Henry David Thoreau spent about two years living in a cabin he built on secluded land owned by Ralph Waldo Emerson in order to ‘live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if [he] could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when [he] came to die, discover that [he] had not lived.’ We won’t be building our own cabin or anything, but we do want to learn from his experiment and see what we can apply to our road trip and to our lives.
Twain, like Miller and Steinbeck, is another literary heavyweight who’s written his fair share of travel literature. Roughing It is the prequel to another travelogue, The Innocents Abroad, in which Twain embarks overseas. And here we tell ourselves, soon… soon…
If anyone’s worthy of being titled a literary heavyweight today, it is William T. Vollmann. Here he’s hopping trains illegally. Er—maybe we shouldn’t say that. Instead, we’ll quote the legal disclaimer in the beginning of the book: I have never been caught riding on a freight train. So let’s say I have never committed misdemeanor trespass. The stories in this book are all hearsay, and the photographs are really drawings done in steel-gray crayon. Oh, and he opens the book with a quote by Mark Twain.
The name pretty much sums it up. An early example of literary journalism, Wolfe’s journey across America in the late sixties… experiencing America through a slightly altered state of mind… is not only a brief glimpse into a social revolution, but into the minds behind it.