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Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  109 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
"Nothingless than the soul of an extremely interesting human being at war on ourbehalf." —Kurt VonnegutAstunning portrait of modern America by Colby Buzzell,the critically acclaimed author of My War: Killing Time in Iraq.Recounting his five-month journey through the country, from its thrivingcoastlines to its rust-belt wrecks, Buzzell reveals aparadoxical landscape of Amer ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 23rd 2011 by Harper
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Jul 20, 2014 RandomAnthony rated it liked it
Colby Buzzell’s >Lost in America is a weird but likable book. It’s weird because, well, it doesn’t carry much of a focus or a point. I guess Buzzell starts with the idea of doing a Kerouac thing (I don’t know or care much about Kerouac, so I’m not sure if he did it correctly or whatever) but seems to blow off the idea within the first few pages. Instead, he drives around the country and works shitty jobs through the book’s first half. He smokes cigarettes and drinks in cheap SRO hotels. He th ...more
Robert Costa
Aug 31, 2011 Robert Costa rated it it was amazing
Colby Buzzell, wittingly or not, has not only crafted a lasting piece of work, he's also succeeded in setting a brilliantly disguised snare in which even advanced readers will be trapped. Let the simple high school book report regurgitations begin! From the reviews of Lost in America that I've read to date, not a single person has escaped that deadly snare which is, without cunning, hidden in plain sight. He offers the casual reader nothing but starkly naked self-deprecating truths which are irr ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Mscout rated it liked it
Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey is Colby Buzzell’s response to his publisher’s pitch to update an American classic. Instructed to “retrace Kerouac’s footsteps and paint a contemporary portrait of America” and to write “a love letter to Kerouac”, Buzzell wholeheartedly agrees and immediately cashes the advance check. And also immediately lets the reader know “Like hell I am.” This is no homage to Kerouac or classic American literature.

The book opens with a quote from Kurt Cobain and each succ
Sam Reaves
Mar 25, 2017 Sam Reaves rated it liked it
Colby Buzzell served with the 101st Airborne in Iraq and wrote a terrific memoir about it (see my review); after leaving the army he bounced around a little, got divorced, drank a lot and struggled with PTSD, in short having a not atypical experience for a veteran. His distinction was to write it all down with little artifice or inhibition, producing a number of interesting pieces for Esquire and other publications. This book is a record of a cross-country road trip Buzzell took on assignment fr ...more
Aug 20, 2011 cheryl added it

I love that reading for Harper let's me explore outside my usual fiction rules. I don't read a ton of memoirs but was very intrigued by Colby Buzzell's Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey. The Iraq war vet who had recently lost his mother and had his first child (the former gets a lot more discussion in the text), sets out with the instruction to live a modern-day On The Road. With a few interruptions, he travels in an old car, focusing on towns tourists tend to skip, back-roads, and less-than-s
Jul 08, 2011 Michelle rated it really liked it
Colby Buzzell, an Iraq war veteran with PTSD who’s had a memoir published and written a lot for assorted magazines and the like, was commissioned to take a road trip across the US and write, quote-unquote, a “love letter to Kerouac”. These plans were rather hampered by real life in the form of his mother’s terminal illness and the impending birth of his son. The book opens with a series of false starts as Buzzell, conflicted, uncertain and most likely in denial as to the true state of his mother ...more
Matthew Fife
I received this book from one of the free give-aways, and to be perfectly honest, I thoroughly enjoyed it, mostly. I could have lived without the frequent use of curse words, quite happily actually, but I understand the reason for it.

This book chronicles Mr. Buzzell's journey through America, and the journey within himself, as he floats from place to place, working when he could, moving on when he couldn't. He writes about his experiences interacting with every-day Americans as they fight to mak
Aug 24, 2011 Georgette rated it liked it
Colby Buzzell is feeling overwhelmed. He's just lost his mother to cancer and become a father for the first time. In a moment of insight brought on by repeated readings of ON THE ROAD, he decides he needs to get away from everything(yes, despite the fact that he's a new father). He feels the need to find himself again by traveling America's byways and backways. He does just that, going from San Francisco's Tenderloin district to Denver to the frightening goal posts thrown at him by Des Moines, I ...more
Jan 18, 2015 Steve rated it did not like it
Colby Buzzell's memoir of a life on the road, apparently searching for nothing more meaningful than the next buzz and some labor to pass the day, is a disappointment. Perhaps doomed from the outset; his mission is compromised because he operates under the auspices of a book advance while trying to pass as one of the miserable folks he familiarizes with in his travels. This yields a clear level of dis-ingenuousness that makes the whole adventure seem like a dare rather than the gritty reality of ...more
Jonathan Raab
Dec 18, 2014 Jonathan Raab rated it it was amazing
Walking in the shadow of Kerouac, Colby Buzzell sets off on a cross-country trip to search for America, or a book idea, or himself, or just a few good dive bars.

The book is aimless (but not boring), with Buzzell going from place to place, staying in the worst parts of decaying American cities. He seeks out the "worst" neighborhoods, often going where the locals tell him not to go.

He's more at home in the ghettos and poverty-stricken places than anywhere else, and he wants to find the human and t
Oct 14, 2011 Becky rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn in by this author's open and real conversation with himself. Despite the use of the "f" word rather much at the beginning, I continued to read and could feel an authentic person talking from the heart. His heart and experiences seemed much different than mine but strangely familiar. His choices in life of places and daily activities were alien to me but the openness of his dialog was at once revealing, cogent, and truthful and at the same time, strangely heartwarming. As the author p ...more
Oct 28, 2013 Becky rated it really liked it
I am a huge fan of Colby Buzzell's Iraq War memoir My War . If, like me, you read that one and grew to really like Buzzell, you'll probably want to read this one, which is like taking a post-deployment road trip with him across the US.

Like A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which to me, is mainly a book about grieving even though it hardly ever mentions grief directly after the first few chapters, this book feels to me like one that is mainly about grief and the aftermath of combat, alt
Oct 27, 2011 Mir rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed Buzzell's first book: 'My War: Killing Time in Iraq'. He writes with gritty realism that kept me spellbound throughout most of that book. After he came from Iraq, he suffered from PTSD, but kept writing articles for various mags, including Esquire. So when he came out with book #2, I eagerly snatched it up. Things seemed to have improved for him by now, this book details part of his journey back to a 'normal life'. He still writes evocatively about his Mom, his family and his st ...more
Sep 07, 2011 Nina rated it really liked it
Buzzell bought a classic car and set out from his home in San Francisco to drive across America with no specific destination. He chose seedy hotels and even seedier bars on his journey. He apparently alternated between being drunk and hung over. The book opens with the illness and death of his mother, and closes with a description of his son's birth. Both events set this journey of discovery in motion.

Buzzell explores and photographs once magnificent buildings, now abandone and decrepit. These b
Codymarie Greene`
Aug 22, 2011 Codymarie Greene` rated it really liked it
Maybe it's because I'm around the same age, grew up in the same area, and have had or have friends/family that have had similar life experiences but, this is was great. I love the sarcastic humor, intentional or not and this story, memoir has touched a nerve in me.

I've read that some readers say that it has the feel of a high school report, and yes at times it does but, it's an honest look at the state of our country that few have had the voice to announce. It's a candid look at a man caught be
Streator Johnson
Mar 26, 2016 Streator Johnson rated it really liked it
I have read several of Colby's articles in Esxquire and elsewhere. I like Colby's devil may care writing style quite a lot. This is the first of his books that I have read. Sort of an ode to Jack Kerouac updated to modern times (well 2009 anyway), it reads in a like minded most stream of consciousness manner. It basically a story of his drive around America for no particular reason. Mostly it rings true and is pretty funny in parts. But also rather depressing in its overall take on what's happen ...more
Karen Wilson
Sep 02, 2011 Karen Wilson rated it liked it
This book capitalizes on the premise that everyone has a story, if you just take the time to talk to them and get to know them a little. Mr. Buzzell does that, and is nice enough to pass it along. Technically good also, especially since this was an uncorrected proof copy. The plot left this reader wondering how his wife lets him leave her for such a long time! I find it sad that he is more interested in meeting street people in Detroit than spending time with his wife and son. However, that's hi ...more
Initially i wasn't real sure about this, I wouldnt say that this is anything like kerouac, nor his previous pieces regarding the war. As for a trip across the US, i found it somewhat disjointed, although his observations were interesting they didnt really say to much about the US as a whole, it seemed to be a snapshot of a small subsection of America. I did find that the authors willingness to discuss his loss of his mother as well as how well articulated it was to be superb, i highly applaud it ...more
Sep 29, 2011 RYCJ rated it it was amazing
Shelves: dynamic-reads
I thought Buzzell's memoir was a self-discovery calling. The delivery… the gentle, melodious tone in the face of honestly parting with thoughts and feelings was very well captured. I empathized with him describing what being a loner felt like, and thus easily understood how a young man already lost in this isolated space, who’d experienced IRAQ and losing his mother, would not be prepared to manage family. I vigilantly rooted for a satisfying... which I cannot give away. Overall, well done!
Sep 10, 2011 ben rated it really liked it
This was an interesting book about a war veterans journey across the seemy side of America. My favorite parts were how Detroit was described. Since I have no plans to go explore downtown Detroit at this time thank you to the author to tell me about it. Colby Buzzell has the courage to become part of the America that no one wants to think about. He does find good in people that would scare me.
Devan Lipsey
Apr 12, 2013 Devan Lipsey rated it really liked it
I always enjoy a good travelogue and this was well done. I liked the fact the author didn't force himself from place to place just to fill the book (in fact spending most of the time in one place). There is good insight into how the working poor are struggling further deepening my cynicism unfortunately. I'll be interested to see the author's next book.
Sep 24, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it
I won this book through GoodReads and must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Colby Buzzell was open and honest about his journey and struggles with humanity. If you don't think going to war impacts the human psyche, I highly recommend this book. I think we can all identify with periods in our life where we struggle and feel lost, but these feelings are much more intense and severe for Colby.
Aug 19, 2012 Amy rated it liked it
At times, this was a difficult book to read because of the author's experiences in "lost" cities in current America. However, it is worth reading for a real feel for what is going on in recession America in hard hit cities like Detroit. [My young adult daughter recommended this book to me which also inspired me to keep reading.]
Aug 22, 2011 Erin rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
A gritty, fearless and ballsy memoir. This guy goes through doors and talks to people that would terrify me. This was a quick read. And I enjoyed it at times. I found Colby to be interesting, but not necessarily likeable. I did tear up when he describes his dying mother, but for the most part, the story was repetitive and a bit dull.
Jan 01, 2012 Robert rated it really liked it
Shelves: quality_writing
A raw and gritty trip across the country, showing a side of the US that I don't have much experience with. My favorite parts were the powerful description of dealing with loss in the first chapter, and the section exploring Detroit towards the end of the book.
Oct 07, 2011 talkingtocactus rated it really liked it
really liked this book, it was an interesting picture of america as things are today, from an interesting perspective. i thought the writer talked a lot of sense, and so did many of the ordinary people he met on the way. plus it was funny, nicely written and quite touching in parts too :)
Mar 30, 2012 Squeaky rated it liked it
I need to call my mother and tell her I love her.
Dec 16, 2015 Vera rated it it was amazing
I found this book very well written as the other one that Colby Buzzell Wrote.You can see all his love for America in this road trip must read
Aug 22, 2011 Kimberly marked it as to-read
Won this book, watching the mail!!!
Michael Sweeney
Aug 30, 2011 Michael Sweeney rated it it was amazing
"Mrs. Obama took a sh%t on this toilet?" ... you kill me.
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Colby Buzzell is the author of My War: Killing Time in Iraq, Lost In America: A Dead End Journey, and Thank You For Being Expendable & Other Experiences. Buzzell served as an infantryman in the United States Army during the Iraq War. Assigned to a Stryker Brigade Combat Team in 2003, Buzzell blogged from the front lines of Iraq as a replacement for his habitual journaling back in the states. I ...more
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