Jin (osprey_archer) wrote,
Jin
osprey_archer

Book Review: Touring America by Automobile in the 1920s

If, like me, you read the title Touring America by Automobile in the 1920s and all but swoon with joy - and swoon again when you realize that this is a primary source, a diary that a woman named Hepzy Moore Cook write during two early American road trips with her husband (one to Yellowstone and the other through the South) - then this is the book for you. There’s lots of good information about the experience of road-tripping in early cars,with their constant tire troubles and the poor state of the roads and the all-but-nonexistent hotel system outside the cities. They either camp or rent rooms in private homes.

I realize that capsule summary makes traveling in the 1920s sound awful, but actually as I was reading it sounds delightfully adventurous (well, except for the part where the diary-writer gets dysentery). I wish there’d been a bit more information about the food, but one can’t have everything. And there is a lot of interesting information about the understanding of history at the time, especially the Civil War: it was sixty years ago by this 1927 road trip, but there’s still a sense of it as a raw spot on the national psyche. The highest praise Hepzy can offer for a Civil War memorial is to say that it shows the spirit of reconciliation.

However, if this sort of thing doesn’t make your heart go pitter-patter, it’s probably not the book for you. The interest is all in the subject matter; the writing is pedestrian at best. It also includes a few clunky typos - I’m not sure typos is the right word for them; but there are places where the author/editor, Hepzy Moore Cook’s grandson William A. Cook, has written something that sounds kind of like the right word but isn’t, including this gem:

“The Prohibition era would also be the geniuses of another popular form of racing in America - stock car racing.”

Geniuses. Isn’t that great? (I’m apt to make these too, although I don’t think I ever made one quite as sublime as geniuses for genesis.)

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Tags: book review, books, history, words
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