on 29 October 2007
Ah, Route 66: road of legend, of song and film, America's Main Street, the Mother Road; images of dust-bowl jalopies and hitch-hiking migrants and the road-trippin' desert of the American west, all crazy neon and fifties motels, Studebakers and Buicks and chrome. And 250 pages, and 600 photographs, all dedicated to its memory - for it barely exists anymore - to fill the heart with rattlesnake dreams and four-wheeled wanderlust, and set more souls in search of that 2400-mile ribbon of magic, right?
Sadly - and surprisingly - no.
Instead, what we get is a strange mix of coffee table glamour, children's-style history and amateurish if enthusiastic tour guide altogether lacking the direction and impetus of the road it describes. Ninety pages are devoted to the pre-history of Route 66 - chapters on the horse and the bicycle - while the glaring omissions - where are the beatniks and hippies, the rock and roll years? - and bland and sometimes incomprehensible interviews betray the writers' true talent: that of exhaustive, and occasionally exhausting historians. In the end, one is left wondering whether the authors of this weighty tome have even driven the road they talk so much about.
PS There's a marvelous, Spinal Tap-esque mistake on page 162: "The monument towers at over four feet above the valley floor." Brilliant! There are other mistakes too, but this is the best.