three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
24-Sept-Oct-2006
user_rating: 
0

Fifteen Years and 90,000 Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, a Lot of Bad Motels, a Moving Van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, My Wife, My Mother-In-Law, Two Kids, and Enough Coffee to Kill an Elephant.

A-Cross CountryIf the subtitle doesn’t sum up Cross Country, here’s another crack at it: On a trek from Portland to New York, just one of more than two dozen cross-country trips he’s taken, writer Robert Sullivan whiles away the miles by engaging his whirring mind with the history of interstate travel, the development of coffee-cup lids, Beat poets, and the Cannonball Run road race. Despite the pervasive presence of chain stores and motels, the author celebrates his conviction that putting wheels to tarmac is an essential component of American individualism.
Bloomsbury. 256 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 1582345279

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Sullivan changes subjects almost as often as the Impala must have changed lanes, but he is a master of jazz narrative, so many twists and turns that readers can only be enthralled and bedazzled." John Marshall

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"One of the happy discoveries of Cross Country is that the feeling of traveling where many have traveled before is as old as America itself." John Freeman

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"Freeway ruminations become explorations of the sociology, psychology, and history of driving America’s longest roads." Daniel Dyer

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Though technically a travel memoir, Cross Country aspires to be much more: a survey of cross-country road trips written with the languid pace and arcane detail that might characterize a six-day drive with a charming, talkative history buff." Bruce Barcott

Portland Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In this book, some readers might find themselves worn down by Sullivan’s exuberant curiosity. … At the same time, the details provide the pleasure of the book." Douglas Levin

New York Times 1.5 of 5 Stars
"The six-day drive stretches into … pages of mind-numbing logistics. … There are moments of brilliance along the way. But the verbose text, like the notes that pioneers deposited along old Western wagon trails, encourages the reader to take shortcuts." Finn Olaf-Jones

Critical Summary

Robert Sullivan, a contributing editor for Vogue, claims to have logged over 90,000 miles of transcontinental travel. Though Cross Country details just one of those jaunts, the experience comes in handy for this "charming memoir-cum-rumination on the great American road trip" (New York Times Book Review). Where his earlier books featured immersive, expansive treatments of narrow subjects (Rats, 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2004; The Meadowlands), here the rolling odometer opens up a hodgepodge of topics for this "urban Thoreau" (Boston Globe). A few critics feel there’s too much room to mentally roam, but most reviewers proclaim it a trip well worth taking.