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Master D Goes West

November 4, 2011 by Reader's Connection

Is the 1993 Mississippi River flood just a vague television memory for you? Do you want to read something and, when you´re finished, feel as though your feet were glunked with very fertile mud? Read Jonathan Raban’s essay, “Mississippi Water.”

On our journey through the Dewey Decimal System, we have reached the 800’s, the Literature & Rhetoric stretch. I’ve been shopping around, having a great time with possible candidates for this post–one of which ended up on this week’s Staff Recommends–but we´re barreling toward the year’s end, now, and I´ve finally made a choice. 

The 000’s: Generalities The Amazon and the Blue Hotel
The 100’s: Philosophy & Psychology Three Questions We Never Stop Asking
The 200’s: Religion What Was Lost: A Christian Journey through Miscarriage
The 300’s: Social Sciences How Wars End: Why We Always Fight the Last Battle: A History of American Intervention from World War I to Afghanistan
The 400’s: Language Last Speakers: The Quest to Save the World’s Most Endangered Languages AND Wordwatching: Breaking into the Dictionary
The 500’s: Natural Sciences & Mathematics A Grand, Bold Thing: An Extraordinary New Map of the Universe Ushering in a New Era of Discovery
The 600’s. Technology (Applied Sciences) The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love
The 700’s: The Arts Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine

The 800s. Literature & Rhetoric

The 900’s. History & Geography


828.914 RAB

Driving Home: An American Journey by Jonathan Raban

Driving Home: An American JourneyJonathan Raban is a British novelist-travel writer who moved to Seattle in 1990. Some of the essays in this book involve politics, and some are exercises in literary criticism, and I’ve enjoyed those; but my favorites so far are the piece on the Mississippi flood and Raban’s reflections on his adopted homeland in the Pacific Northwest.

He gives us wonderful descriptions of the natural world into which his rainy city has been built, and he’s amusing about the fact that almost all Seattle residents seem to be from somewhere else.

The idea that my own move was a strikingly bold and original one was blown clean away at the yard sales, where everyone in sight was hastily patching together the ingredients of a new life . . . I was a newcomer in a city of newcomers, where the corner grocer came from Seoul, the landlord from Horta in the Azores, the woman at the super-market checkout from Los Angeles, the neighbor from Kansas City, the mailman from South Dakota . . . It is comfortingly hard to feel a misfit in a society where no one you know exactly fits.

Raban loves the land, but seems to loathe naturalist John Muir. He was pro-Obama at election time, but empathizes with people attending a Tea Party convention in Nashville. This book of essays, with its idiosyncrasies and its beautiful descriptive passages, makes me want to read a couple of earlier books, Bad Land: An American Romance, about Montana homesteaders, and Passage to Juneau: A Sea and Its Meanings.



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