On the Road: A Literary Survey

The second season of the Hugo House Literary Series kicks off with authors Aimee Bender, Marie Howe and Matt Ruff and musician Laurie Katherine Carlsson, offering new writing and music on the theme of “Road Trip.” We e-mailed for a preview of where three of the participants might be headed.

What’s your best road trip?
Laurie Katherine Carlsson: A boyfriend and I busted onto the road with a sign in the window that said “Colorado or Butts.” We ended up only spending one night there, but every turn we took that trip seemed to be exactly the right one.

Matt Ruff: In 1991, I was on a book tour in Germany. One of my readings was in a town on the coast of the Baltic Sea. They sent me up there from Berlin in a car with a U.S. Marine and a woman from the State Department. Naturally, we got lost.

If your life is a road trip, what’s the starting place?

MR: New York City. In a car packed with relatives from various countries having an argument about theology.

Aimee Bender: San Francisco.

LKC: Lost. In my early twenties, I just couldn’t get anywhere. 

What’s the greatest road trip story ever told?

AB: The idea of the road trip opens up a lot for me if it doesn’t have to be in a car. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn comes to mind: a man walks through England, thinking. The true road is following a map of his thoughts.

MR: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

LKC: The collected works of Jack Kerouac. I left his dark, lonely tales feeling uplifted and excited about life.

Can our own road trips ever be as good as those in novels?

MR: It helps if you can arrange to be mauled by grizzly bears or have bandits shoot flaming arrows at you. The real key to having a Kerouac experience is not duplicating what he did, but duplicating how he saw.