Bill Barich: Long Way Home: On the Trail of Steinbeck’s America

October 23, 2010 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

978-0802717542 – Walker & Co. – Hardcover – $26.00 (e-book version also available)

Bill Barich is a fine writer, comfortable with words, a natural storyteller who is self-aware and a careful observer of character as well as landscape.  He’s got a great narrative voice that makes his books very easy to read and deeply engrossing.

In the summer of 2008, Barich, who has lived in Dublin, Ireland for some time, decided to take a journey across America, essentially following in the footsteps of the great John Steinbeck, who made the cross-country journey (ostensibly to rediscover America, but more likely a stab at rediscovering his own literary voice, which resulted in Travels with Charley in 1962).

Of course Barich and Steinbeck differ in significant ways.  And the early 1960’s were a very different time than 2008 for America.  Barich’s trip came at the time of our massive economic collapse, and the rising presidential campaign of Barack Obama, both of which become thematic backdrops for his story.  Steinbeck traveled in pick up truck with a home made camper out back, and with his dog, Charley, whereas Barich drove a rented Ford Focus (almost 6000 miles!) and stayed in motels.  But Steinbeck is the ever present model for the later traveler, whose outlook is certainly as different as the country he explores.

In fact, Barich’s story is engrossing from beginning to end.  He starts the trip in Maryland, and stays on US 50 west to the Golden State, with stops and sidetrips along the way that are always interesting, even though often sad and sometimes even depressing.  He is, after all, reporting on America as he finds it, which includes features and political themes that are not always what we might have wished or hoped for.  It’s an honest portrait, and a story well told.  I’ve done my share of cross-country traveling, and very much enjoyed this book and my conversation with Barich about it.  There’s a good deal of back story and detail in this conversation we had some fun with and which I hope listeners will enjoy.

Bill Barich is the author of seven books, including Laughing in the Hills, which was named one of the hundred best sports books of all time. Other works include a novel, Carson Valley, and another work of nonfiction, A Fine Place to Daydream: Racehorses, Romance, and the Irish and recently, A Pint of Plain which describes the decline of the traditional Irish pub. A Guggenheim Fellow, and literary laureate of the San Francisco Public Library, Barich now lives and works in Dublin.

Be Sociable, Share!

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...