For a long time I had this weird idea that if I had read a book that I was never going to read it again, because I had all the data in my head and it would serve no purpose to re-hash it all. Something changed though, and I woke up to the fact that reading a book again a little way down the line can bring a whole new perspective to you and you get something entirely new from the experience.
I first read Hunting Mr Heartbreak
back in the nineties when it was on my college a-level, and I will be honest, at the time, running on the fuel of arrogance which got me my grades, I was not putting quite so much effort in to the book as it deserved. Still, it made an impression.
When I first came over to the states, the place I now call home. I thought that I was running on a Kerouac engine – some wild beatnik dream fuelling me, but on reflection, and re-reading this book, I realised how much influence it had upon me and my thinking.
Does some of that derive from the fact that Raban is an Englishman travelling through this country? It may be as simple as that; but I think it is more to do with how he handles his subject.
He does come across as bemused a lot of the time, but he never hams up the portraits he points to a degree where the people he is talking about become caricatures – he is deft at balancing both the concerns of the current day and the weight of the history behind them that affects them.
I learned a lot about America from this book, and sure, they are different lessons to those that i would learn from reading an American on the same subject, but in the same way Bill Bryson wanders through a viewpoint the local might not peer at the world from, so too does Raban bring that alien perspective to bear.
The narrative he builds is compelling as well – there is the necessary amount of complexity to make this great journalism, but there is enough simplicity, in the imposed framework, that the book hangs together cohesively as an overall portrait of the country, with a beginning, middle, and an end.
I like this book; I like it’s voice, and I think you too will enjoy listening to it.