Faber & Faber £9.99 (243pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop : 08430 600 030
Coast to Coast, By Jan Morris
Friday 02 April 2010
For those of us who love America but are dismayed by its imperial swagger, this is the perfect book. In 1953, Jan (then James) Morris spent a year travelling from New York to Los Angeles. The result is an outstanding work by our finest travel writer, a portrait of a nation that was still "bursting with bright optimism, generous, unpretentious... basking in its universal popularity".
Morris's overture on Manhattan showcases her dazzling prose: "What a prize it would be for some looting army of barbarians, slashing their way through its silks and satins, ravishing its debutantes, gorging themselves in its superb French restaurants!" Her keen eye exults in details, which are exquisitely expressed.
A Nevada croupier's "tall thin neck" is "entwined with a mesh of sinews, like Laocoö*and the snakes".
A "bosomy film star" is seen "stepping from her Cadillac at the Kentucky Derby with a rustle of silk, a casual adjustment of furs and a wave to her entranced admirers".
She also notes the quirky differences between the US and us. This reviewer was once fined because of his ignorance that it is "generally illegal to cross the road and park your car on the other side in the direction you are travelling".
Morris's celebration ends with a glimpse of the nascent superpower: "Her new militarism makes me sad, her creeping obsession with power... her hardening inability to see the other side."
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Three-year-old boy shoots pregnant mother and father in New Mexico
- 2 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 3 Jewish community urged to boycott Cornwall village after residents vote for 'Hitlers Walk' sign to be reinstated
- 4 Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
- 5 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Gorillaz Phase 4: Cartoon supergroup is back as new artwork is unveiled
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
As Better Call Saul launches, here are the other spin-off shows we need to see
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures