Kerfe's Reviews > Blue Highways

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
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's review
Aug 22, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, biography-memoir
Read in August, 2008

This book is as much a philosophical journey as a physical one, exploring time as well as space. Although he knows he's running away, the author also knows he will return. He's hoping, perhaps, that not only time and season will be different, but the running man as well. That by seeing many different things he will come to see things differently. That his time away will cause a shift in the way others see him, that maybe his problems will resolve themselves in his absence.

I'm not sure what year Least Heat Moon took his trip, but the book was published in 1982, so that's at least 25 years ago. I wonder what and how much remains to be seen on the same journey in 2008. Certainly the "old ways", the local colors and flavors, have most likely continued to disappear. The homogenization of America has not retreated. I think the author feels that important connections have been lost, and the the connections are not just human but environmental. At the same time, I think he is not looking for a way to freeze time and keep things unchanged, but for a way to acknowledge change without forgetting what has come before.

It's impossible to summarize or note here all the ordinary yet powerful voices Least Heat Moon finds as he drives around the United States. He "bears witness", as he says at one point, by recognizing and repeating their words, "those of men [and women] who knew about stumbling not from observation as gods know it, but rather from having stumbled." Storekeepers, farmers, seamen, teachers, bartenders, students, believers, cynics, searchers and wanderers, young and old--all have stories to tell.

By stepping out of the routine of the life he was living, by taking an unknown road each day, and by stopping to look at and listen to and find out about the people and places
that intersected with these roads, the author "shifted the angle" with which he viewed the world. Though he was returning to the same starting point, for him it would not be the same place he had departed from.

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