Only in America – the most powerful democracy on earth, home to the best and worst of everything – are the most extreme contradictions possible. In a series of journeys acclaimed author Don Watson set out to explore the nation that has influenced him more than any other.
Travelling by rail gave Watson a unique and seductive means of peering into the United States, a way to experience life with its citizens: long days with the American landscape and American towns and American history unfolding on the outside, while inside a tiny particle of the American people talked among themselves.
Watson’s experiences are profoundly affecting: he witnesses the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast; explores the savage history of the Deep South, the heartland of the Civil War; and journeys to the remarkable wilderness of Yellowstone National Park.
Yet it is through the people he meets that Watson discovers the incomparable genius of America, its optimism, sophistication and riches – and also its darker side, its disavowal of failure and uncertainty.
Beautifully written, with gentle power and sly humour, American Journeys investigates the meaning of the United States: its confidence, its religion, its heroes, its violence, and its material obsessions. The things that make America great are also its greatest flaws.
“Traveling by train, the Australian author scans a post-Katrina America while racking up an impressive trove of insight and observation few natives could match.” Newsweek
“There are passages in this book so good they demand to be read aloud, aphorisms worth turning and examining closely, the distillation of a life thinking about the glamorous America first seen in childhood, later complicated by a thousand contrary images, but still tugging at the imagination. Don Watson has written a profound and deeply personal work that makes for itself a place in the great tradition of American journeys.” Australian Book Review
“Mark Twain, Jonathan Raban, Jack Kerouac and Andrew Ferguson would provide tough competition for anyone. Here, Watson competes with whimsy, with curiosity and with an open mind, all backed up by an extremely well-read, closely-watched, examination of wherever he happens to be.” Canberra Times