Time and Men and Deeds

Christopher Driver

  • Blue Highways: A Journey into America by William Least Heat Moon
    Secker, 421 pp, £8.95, May 1983, ISBN 0 436 28459 6

The platitude about America, also voiced by Americans, is that it is a country that thinks big and thinks new. One sees why. There is plenty of there, there, between Nameless, Tennessee and Liberty Bond, Washington – two stations on Moon’s orbit of his own land. As for novelty worship, planned obsolescence – though not necessarily more objectionable than the unplanned British kind – came in 31 flavours or 57 varieties long before the phrase was invented. The celebration of obsolescence even lies near the heart of the terminally destructive arms-race which America, naturally, leads. In the city park of Langdon, North Dakota, the author gazes at a ‘retired’ Spartan missile ‘that now apparently serves the same function as court-house lawn fieldpieces with little pyramids of cannonballs once did’. In Britain, we clearly treat ephemera of this kind with sad disrespect. Why was Julian Amery never invited to unveil one of the Blue Streaks that never were as an adornment to St James’s Park? When Mrs Finchley trades Polaris in for Trident, will the old model be put on public display outside the United Reformed church of that borough (conveniently called St Margaret’s)? A poor nation like our own should never order a missile without thinking about its antiquarian value.

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