Pin It
Favorite

The Routes of Man 

In his road-trip book on roads, Ted Conover finds both progress and peril.

click to enlarge Ted Conover
  • Ted Conover

The romantic effect that roads can have on a person is not a new topic for writers. We have “Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley and Into the Wild by John Krakauer, to name just a few.

And now we have Ted Conover’s The Routes of Man. Conover — one of the finest immersion journalists around — could not resist the call of the open road. Specifically, the open roads of Peru, India, Kenya, Nigeria, China, Israel and Palestine.

On these routes, Conover shows how roads connect and unite people but also sever relationships and build empires.

In Peru, Conover hitches a ride with a truck driver on a treacherous road surmounting the high Andes, cutting through ancient Incan territory and rain forest. He goes into the woods on another route (the headwaters of the Amazon River) to witness the illegal harvest of mahogany, which fetches a high price from the world’s wealthy consumers.

The effects of a global economy here are evident, Conover writes, if difficult to parse. “To retrace the wood home to its source would be to see a road’s promise in the economy of a poor country, and its threat to pristine wilderness,” he writes. “It would also be a good way to see Peru.”

The gist of this viewpoint lies at the heart of the book. Conover laments the impact that new roads have around the world, all the while looking for how they could benefit the people that use them — and how they’ve afforded him a new adventure.

In the Buddhist region of Zanskar in India, he traverses the chaddar, a frozen river trail used by the locals in the winter. There a new road is being built. The isolated village of Reru — a “medieval warren of mud-brick houses” — will be transformed.

“I was not eager to see a road built through the chaddar. The valley was so beautiful as it was,” Conover writes. “But Zanskar was not a museum [and] Shangri-La was not a local idea. It was a Western idea, a symbol of what we lost when we advanced, a seductive nostalgia, a dream.”

  • Pin It

Speaking of Books

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • A Sort of Homecoming
  • A Sort of Homecoming

    Julia Keefe's path to this year's Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival headlining stage started as a Spokane middle-schooler
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • THE 2017 OSCARS
  • THE 2017 OSCARS

    Your personal ballot for this year's Academy Awards
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • Paving the Way
  • Paving the Way

    Women weren't admitted at Gonzaga until 1948; a new on-campus exhibit shows how they shaped its culture for modern times
    • Feb 23, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • A Man on a Mission
  • A Man on a Mission

    Tod Marshall, Washington's first poet laureate from the east side, is driven to share the art that saved him
    • May 5, 2016
  • Still Number One
  • Still Number One

    Mike Boyer was the first person to buy legal weed in Spokane; his fame's had highs and lows
    • Jul 8, 2015
  • Home Away From Home
  • Home Away From Home

    Spokolonia gives Spokane's Polish community a chance to unite
    • Jul 29, 2015

Comments


Comments are closed.

Today | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed
Heather Hart: Oracular Rooftops

Heather Hart: Oracular Rooftops @ Terrain

Fri., Feb. 24, 6-8 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Nicholas Deshais

  • Rehab Reality
  • Rehab Reality

    Toys are stacked on the front porch of the Isabella House, but the kids are nowhere to be seen. Inside the front door and behind a red, velvety curtain in the imposing 113-year-old house on the edge of Coeur d’Alene Park in Browne’s Addition, their playroom is also abandoned.
    • Jun 3, 2013
  • Ever Ready
  • Ever Ready

    What happens after you dial 911?
    • Apr 2, 2013
  • Studying Spokane
  • Studying Spokane

    One third-year med student relishes his time at UW East
    • Apr 2, 2013
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Partisan Pagans

    The political divide is even splintering Spokane's witches
    • Feb 2, 2017
  • Finding the Words

    The sounds of 8,000 people taking to the streets of Spokane
    • Jan 26, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Small Towns 2015: Living History
  • Small Towns 2015: Living History

    A newspaper museum keeps Palouse close to its roots, and serves as a community centerpiece
    • Aug 5, 2015
  • Blind Faith
  • Blind Faith

    In a vacant lot by the railroad tracks, an unlikely friendship is found
    • Jan 7, 2016
  • A Drinking Memoir
  • A Drinking Memoir

    Distilled: Love and loss, over a lifetime
    • Jan 14, 2016

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation