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Open Road: A Celebration of the American Highway: 03/23/16

Open Road: A Celebration of the American Highway by Phil Patton

Open Road: A Celebration of the American Highway by Phil Patton is a look at what factors have made the road trip a uniquely American icon. Patton looks at both the development of the American roadways and the evolution of the corresponding narratives.

Patton's thesis is that the road narrative extends to all forms of exploration in the American lexicon. His reason: until the modern day highway, the word road was for any means of conveying goods: waterways, roadways, trails, and later the railroad. It was in the early days of city growth and the expansion outwards (and primarily westwards) that the urban vs rural tropes were first being explored.

It's not until the automobile, the interstate roads, and the required standardization of roadsigns that the grammar for the road narrative develops into something recognizable to a modern day reader. He looks too at the different kinds of narratives written at the different stages of highway development: the early days with roads like The Lincoln Highway, the building of the U.S. highway system, the bypassing of the highways by the interstate, and the homogenization of the roadway experience along the interstates.

This is a book I'll be referring to again and again as I work on my road trip semantics project. You can see my live blogging of the book on Tumblr.

Four stars

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