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"...pastels to iridescents to no paint at all..."

In the opening chapters of Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, William Least Heat-Moon describes driving ever deeper into the Kentucky mountains.
The licks came out of the hills, the fields got smaller, and there were little sawmills cutting hardwoods into pallets, crates, fenceposts. The houses shrank, and their colors changed from white to pastels to iridescents to no paint at all. The lawns went from Vertagreen bluegrass to thin fescue to hard-packed dirt glinting with fragments of broken glass, and the lawn ornaments changed from birdbaths to plastic flamingoes and donkeys to broken-down automobiles with raised hoods like tombstones. On the porches stood long-legged wringer washers and ruined sofas, and, by the front doors, washtubs hung like coats of arms.
I really admire how he describes the steady progression into impoverished areas without ever mentioning poverty itself, but instead by its physical manifestations. Blue Highways has been on my shelf, never read, for ten years, since I picked up a bargain used hardcover at Brattle Book Shop in Boston. I'm really enjoying it so far, and am not sure why I've put it off for so long. Possibly from being intrigued but ultimately underwhelmed by Least Heat-Moon's later effort, River-Horse.

September 8, 2013 in Books | Permalink


I've read Blue Highways twice, and I really enjoy his eye for detail. Still, as great as it all is, I sometimes wondered if he was just making up some of it.

Posted by: Paul Lamb at Sep 8, 2013 12:33:00 PM

Creative nonfiction, I guess.

Posted by: Pete at Sep 8, 2013 1:42:02 PM