Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Notes: Unchained America by Dave Gorman

Although this book was a jolly enough little read, I came away feeling a little underwhelmed by it. The English comedian Dave Gorman is a humorous fellow, and his radio shows like Genius on BBC R4 is always worth a laugh or two. On Genius, members of the public submit their less-than-serious ideas for adjudication by Gorman and a guest celeb. I once submitted an idea to the programme, and ten months later the BBC invited me to come to the programme. I had to decline however, as by that stage I had completely forgotten what my idea was, and had to write back declining their invite with the frank admission that I may be many things, but obviously not a Genius.

Somehow though this book failed to live up to my expectations.

Perhaps my expectation were too high. For a start I like the author (even when I disagree with him), and quirky humorous travel writing is a genre I enjoy. I also thought the idea behind the book sounded interesting - which was to try and drive across the USA using only independent business for food, fuel and accommodation. Having driven extensively in the States a couple of years ago and experienced some wonderfully unique family hotels, stores and business and endured the drab uniformity of the chain-stores, chain-hotels too - I thought this concept for a book was a good one. In addition to that, Gorman's actual route took him along many of the same roads we drove, and through the same towns and landscapes. What then was there not to like?

In truth, I didn't actually dislike very much of it, it was, as I said an amusing piece of writing with which to fill odd moments. It kept me reading, turning the pages and on a couple of occasions chuckling. Perhaps I thought the adventure described would be more madcap, or that Gorman would deliver more incisive social comment or more laughs. Instead, Unchained America gave me several moments of entertained knowing recognition, much wry smiling and a general sense of amusement; and the feeling that I had perhaps expected just a bit too much of the book. No doubt my over-expectation wasn't helped by the blurb writers whose cover spiel contributed to this process. The book ultimately seems to fade out, rather than end with a grand conclusion.

Entertaining but not quite what I had hoped. 

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