Michael Ventura’s owned only one car his entire life: a green ’69 Chevy Malibu. Its wheels have crisscrossed the American landscape over more miles than a round trip to the moon.
From Times Square to Terlingua, from Maine to Los Angeles, from Austin to Deadwood, Ventura has chronicled the continent in “a kind of switchback journey in image and thought.” His essays convey a tactile and intimate relationship with land and people—and of course the car.
Ventura’s distinctive voice and vision are familiar to readers of the Austin Chronicle (where many of these pieces first appeared), as well the Austin Sun, Psychotherapy Networker, and LA Weekly. In this collection, its title borrowed from a Butch Hancock song, the essays switch lanes with Hancock’s evocative black-and-white photographs. Slowing down to take notice of a makeshift shrine in the Texas Panhandle or zipping along the New York Thruway before dawn, Ventura captures the details that make us think profoundly about work, music, poverty, beauty, our home on the planet and in the universe. About volcanoes and the Very Large Array. About friends and companions. About gods and goddesses and God.
With Lubbock, Texas, and the Southwest as the book’s home base, If I Was a Highway roams widely and freely as Ventura takes readers on an unforgettable journey not only into the country but into the soul.
If you’re searching for the forgotten soul of America, you’ll find no better guidebook than Michael Ventura’s deep, passionate, endlessly readable bulletins from the frontlines of our national psyche. . . . For him, the highway isn’t just a road—it’s a philosophy. —John Powers, critic at large, NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross
Michael Ventura knows shit. He hears things, too. He can write like a musician. He understands that from the fringe you can see more of the whole picture. —John Densmore, author of Riders on the Storm
Georges Bataille once wrote of “the shame of a generation whose rebels are afraid of the noise of their own words.” As much as any writer today, and far more than most, Michael Ventura is not afraid of his. —Greil Marcus, author of Mystery Train and editor of A New Literary History of America
Praise for Michael Ventura’s Letters at 3AM
Michael Ventura fights for the complicated world we have inherited, fights for quality, intensity, madness, work, education, art, risk. —Robert Bly
The work of an uncompromising spirit. —Andrei Codrescu
Michael Ventura writes with the body and brilliance of someone who lives solidly in this world and yet sees the theater that is invisible to most of us. —Thomas Moore