Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-03-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Two coinciding exhibits at the University of Iowa Museum of Art in 2005—the display of Jackson Pollock’s sprawling canvas Mural and the manuscript scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road—are coupled with the museum’s endangerment by a highway-channeled flood in 2008, inviting a tangle of philosophic reflections in this convoluted essay on art, commerce, and the building of America’s interstate highway system. As interpreted by journalist and essayist Hanick, Pollock’s development as a leading abstract expressionist, Kerouac’s efforts to give voice to the restless spirit of his generation, and the Eisenhower administration’s systematic plan to impose order on America’s roadways were all boundary-pushing explorations of new frontiers. Though Hanick draws interesting parallels between these and other mid-20th-century cultural phenomena, his presentation of them in fragmented bursts of insight never coheres into a pattern with deeper meaning or significance. Hanick’s narrative is a mix of fascinating historical details about his main subjects and sometimes frustratingly opaque flights of fancy. He alternates illuminating observations such as “the highway replaces space with motion,” with indulgently abstract reflections: “The highway is a mediating skin. A place where our long daydream of ourselves might still be sustained.” With its introduction of extraneous details from the author’s personal life, this book is more a portrait of an imagination engaged than of the subjects that engaged it. (Apr.)