AUGUST 8, 1997
  Next Week  
A Wandering Reader
(At Large in America's Literary Landscape)

Errant writer Amy Halloran is traveling from the Pacific Northwest to Maine. While she travels, Hot Ink asked her to take America's literary pulse. What are they reading in Dubuque, Iowa? Until September, Halloran's weekly journal will cover lit. culture (and roadside attractions) in the U.S.A.

 | journal one |  
8.4.97 Picked up a Geo Metro. I'm going to be driving it to a history professor in Maine. She's Irish but the woman at the driveaway company doesn't
know what kind of history she teaches. Packing last night, I realized I am taking this trip for pure nostalgia, to relive the summers where I went to the Atlantic with my parents. I lived in upstate New York. Now I live in Seattle and don't have anyone to ask "are we there yet?" but the map, which I ignore, preferring to kid myself that crossing the country is just a bit longer than crossing New England to those sandy shores.  
"What are you reading?" is my one line task, but it changes me from observer to intruder

I am reading the diaries of Adrian Mole, which I bought at a garage sale. I can't bear to see the road whip by me at such a speed, so I tuck my head in the book and read, something I can't always do while moving. The diary makes me feel like its writer. When we stop at rest stops I want to check the mirror for pimples, which are called spots in the book and are the obsession of its teenage narrator. But rest stops don't have mirrors and I don't have any zits. If acne was named spots in America, would it be less of a problem? Adrian Mole doesn't think so but I do. Spots. It's almost pretty, next to our names.

I feel so shy I can't ask what I want of the people serving coffee or taking my money for gas. "What are you reading?" is my one line task, but it changes me from observer to intruder, so I hide behind my book's main character, and just say "thanks" too many times. I have, however, composed a poem, inspired by the style of Adrian Mole, who writes non-rhyming poetry and sends it on purple paper to the BBC.

8.5.97 Our first hostess broke the ice on the task of my asking. She's reading Intimate Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire. Her kids are reading the Little House on the Praire series, which is on
I can't stop thinking in the
staccato style of Adrian Mole
  the Christian curriculum list. I ate moose steak for breakfast and can't stop thinking in the staccato style of Adrian Mole's sentences, but I won't reduce to his habit of omitting subjects and verbs. That is sub-standard, and shocking from a presumed Englishman.

8.6.97 My next hostess is reading Dakota, a non-fiction work about a woman who inherits a farm and has to go live there to receive it. I find this out over breakfast in a very narrow dinner, where people stand behind you, waiting for your chair. There's a lot of people working here for such a small space. I ask two of them what they're reading. Bury Me Standing, by Isabel Fonseka, is about gypsies. The same waitress is re-reading the second book from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. (The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Another waitress is reading Grand Opening, by John Hassler, a novel about a small town in Minnesota in the thirties. We are in Minnesota.
People don't avert their eyes when you talk to them. They are friendly and like to talk back. I don't think this is just the result of being out of Seattle, even though this place, Al's, is unique. Rumor has it the dishwashers recite poetry. The joint is too crowded for me to find out for  
rumor has it the dishwashers
recite poetry
sure. Hungry people are breathing down my neck.

--   Wandering Reader
Amy Halloran


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