woefulecho (woefulecho) wrote in bookish,

Lost In America: A Dead-end Journey by Colby Buzzell

Colby manages to do something that my visit to the city over a decade ago failed to do: he endeared me to Detroit.

Colby gets an advance to write a sort of homage to Kerouac's On The Road, but there are only passing mentions of Kerouac. As Colby sets out from San Francisco to take his own cross-country road trip, his book turns out to be more about an Iraq war vet coming to grip with American disintegration, as well as abrupt changes in his own life.

He travels through different cities trying to pick up odd jobs. This is written after Obama's first election and the financial crash. His remarks on the general malaise but persistent attitudes of the people he meets on the way are often amusing, and just as often wistfully sad, like this one:

"While walking toward the stairs, I found myself fixated on the old dusty American flag hung in the hallway. As I approached, it kind of woke me up, reminding me again what it was like to be an American: no health care, long hours of hard work, sh*t pay, and nothing else to show for it while you make other people in air-conditioned offices richer and richer."

When he gets to Detroit, he spends two months there, exploring and taking pictures of all the broken-down buildings, talking to people in the ghetto, and discovering valuable lessons about the spirit of the lower class that I can corroborate from my own life travelling through Midwestern inner cities.

A local architect at one point shows him the plans for a renovation of one of Downtown Detroit's historic buildings. They're going to make it a condo. Colby remarks:

"I'm starting to think that we are all headed toward living in a country of beige condos and working service industry jobs, since those will be the only jobs left. One day I'm going to be tipping you, and you're going to be tipping me."

It's quirky, honest insights like these that make this book so fun to read. There are many gems. I highly recommend it.
Tags: author: b, genre: non-fiction, review, subject: memoir

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