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Riding Toward Everywhere by William T.…
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Riding Toward Everywhere (original 2008; edition 2008)

by William T. Vollmann (Author)

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26311100,986 (3.26)8
Vollmann is a relentlessly curious, endlessly sensitive, and unequivocally adventurous examiner of human existence. He has investigated the causes and symptoms of humanity's obsession with violence (Rising Up and Rising Down), taken a personal look into the hearts and minds of the world's poorest inhabitants (Poor People), and now turns his attentions to America itself, to our romanticizing of "freedom" and the ways in which we restrict the very freedoms we profess to admire. For Riding Toward Everywhere, Vollmann himself takes to the rails. His main accomplice is Steve, a captivating fellow trainhopper who expertly accompanies him through the secretive waters of this particular way of life. Vollmann describes the thrill and terror of lying in a trainyard in the dark, avoiding the flickering flashlights of the railroad bulls; the shockingly, gorgeously wild scenery of the American West as seen from a grainer platform; the complicated considerations involved in trying to hop on and off a moving train. It's a dangerous, thrilling, evocative examination of this underground lifestyle, and it is, without a doubt, one of Vollmann's most hauntingly beautiful narratives. Questioning anything and everything, subjecting both our national romance and our skepticism about hobo life to his finely tuned, analytical eye and the reality of what he actually sees, Vollmann carries on in the tradition of Huckleberry Finn, providing a moving portrait of this strikingly modern vision of the American dream.… (more)
Member:richorlin
Title:Riding Toward Everywhere
Authors:William T. Vollmann (Author)
Info:Ecco (2008), Edition: Reprint, 206 pages
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Riding Toward Everywhere by William T. Vollmann (2008)

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
3.5 stars would be closer, but I'll round up because we need more books like this that value freedom in America over "homeland security." Vollmann's elegy to trainhopping has plenty of sharp commentary and poetic self-reflection--with more meat, either facts or story or sustained characters, this could have been really great. But you won't find too many other middleaged literary geniuses doggedly pursuing the tedium and terror of catching freight trains these days, so my hat's off to him. ( )
  AlexThurman | Dec 26, 2021 |
Video review: ‪https://youtu.be/79oCLXFD5Us ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
Then through a vaginal cut in the red rock, our freight train pulled us up into the sky, with small pines on either side of the tracks, and the entire world was red like Bryce Canyon or Zion.

I am nearly sure I saw WTV and his family, a short while back in Atlanta, as we were preparing to fly to London. I didn't approach him but now I wonder if he was struggling with an interior urgency: I need to get out of here.

Not what I expected. Riding Toward Everywhere is less sociology than travel. Well, it is actually less travel than a memoir. The use of that term has to be inflated in this context, for this is really a long article for a periodical allowed to drift from its own momentum. Despite that, I found and allow what some may regard as padding. it is quite good at times. This isn't a history of riding the rails, but a few snapshots of its contemporary configuration larded with oral history a few dozen photographs. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
https://msarki.tumblr.com/post/164551617213/riding-toward-everywhere-by-william-...

Never been much of a Kerouac or Dean Moriarity fan, but have always been interested in the road, marching to a different beat, and eating off the land. The people Vollmann highlights here do not exactly fit the exacting romance I hold so dear. What William does achieve however is making me listen to him and actually focus on what he has to say. And that is good writing, no matter the subject or obsessions posed on his page. I read this book much as a slow-moving train. The sway and rhythm soothed me, and the certain-to-come rain failed to dampen my days like it might have his. I did feel sodden however with the pain of loss presented through the characters he met along the rails and diners and ditches on the way to his own Cold Mountain, the satori Kerouac strove for.

I never could have gotten to Cold Mountain because I lack Cold Mountain’s mind. I love cities as much as solitude, prostitutes as much as trees…But as Vollmann finishes, saying …Sometimes when I ride to Everywhere I believe in Cold Mountain. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 7, 2018 |
I'll write more later
This book is about a particular fear and feeling. Vollmann describes an America, shortly after 9/11 and in the grips of George W and his tightened security. Vollmann feels and senses a loss of freedom, and longs to regain it by riding the rails. He quotes from Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and Kerouac's On the Road with respect to their own attempts to leave somewhere and reach Everywhere. but where is that? Can you ever attain Everywhere? What is it we are longing for? What does it mean to be free?
The writing is good, especially his lyrical description of riding the trains and seeing the night sky or lying under a eucalyptus. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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I am my father's son.
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I am my father's son, which is to say that I am not exactly my father. In some ways I am shyer than he, in others more extreme and bold. My father believes that drugs should be legalized, regulated and taxed. So do I. My father has never sampled a controlled substance and never will. I've proudly committed every victimless crime that I can think of. My father actively does not want to know which acts I have performed and with whom.
Freight trains remind me of my father's tools, and of those of both grandfathers, the one I've known and the one I hardly knew; both were machinists. My father's tools are heavy. They are more metal than plastic. The power tools sport cords as thick as promises. The tools of my grandfathers, the solid old micrometers and files, do not have anything to do with plastic or electricity. They are solid metal, knurled and dense. As for my father's tools, they are poxed with rust. When I inspect them, I worry that I might have been a bad son.
I was irritated -- I'd come back from the Magnetic Pole, hadn't I? -- and sad for him for worrying so irrelevantly, incidentally increasing my own fears -- and wasn't that one reason I rode the freights, to cut fear down to size?
Every time I surrender, even necessarily, to authority which disregardingly or contemptuously violates me, so I violate myself. Every time I break an unnecessary law, doing so for my own joy and to the detriment of no other human being, so I regain myself, and become strong in the parts of me that the security man can never see.
When I ride the rails, I don't wish to go just anywhere; I demand to go Everywhere. I insist on being myself more than would please the neighbours. So I hereby say goodbye to my neighbours.
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Vollmann is a relentlessly curious, endlessly sensitive, and unequivocally adventurous examiner of human existence. He has investigated the causes and symptoms of humanity's obsession with violence (Rising Up and Rising Down), taken a personal look into the hearts and minds of the world's poorest inhabitants (Poor People), and now turns his attentions to America itself, to our romanticizing of "freedom" and the ways in which we restrict the very freedoms we profess to admire. For Riding Toward Everywhere, Vollmann himself takes to the rails. His main accomplice is Steve, a captivating fellow trainhopper who expertly accompanies him through the secretive waters of this particular way of life. Vollmann describes the thrill and terror of lying in a trainyard in the dark, avoiding the flickering flashlights of the railroad bulls; the shockingly, gorgeously wild scenery of the American West as seen from a grainer platform; the complicated considerations involved in trying to hop on and off a moving train. It's a dangerous, thrilling, evocative examination of this underground lifestyle, and it is, without a doubt, one of Vollmann's most hauntingly beautiful narratives. Questioning anything and everything, subjecting both our national romance and our skepticism about hobo life to his finely tuned, analytical eye and the reality of what he actually sees, Vollmann carries on in the tradition of Huckleberry Finn, providing a moving portrait of this strikingly modern vision of the American dream.

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Contents:
  • A Short Essay on Freight Trains
  • So Quiet and Smooth and Lovely
  • A Tawny Coyote Looked at Us
  • I Think We’re in Switzerland, Cat
  • Back Then
  • I’ve Got to Get Out of Here
  • Diesel Venus
  • A Stick of Dynamite
  • A Cold Sun Crawled Silently
  • Grainer Astronomy
  • Lost and Found
  • Exploding Off the Wall
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