Tuesday, January 22

Blue Highways

William Least Heat-Moon was somewhere in Oregon in 1978 when he was struck by the eloquence of the Lewis and Clark journals:
Readers who see a declining literate expression in America will find further evidence in the journals. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark presented their permanently important historical and anthropological record clearly and poignantly, often writing under trying and dangerous conditions. In our time, who of the many astronauts has written anything to compare in significance or force of language?
I don't know, I think the astronauts were working with a mighty disadvantage. For one thing, space is dark. And it is, for the most part, void of living beings to interact with. And your couped up in a pod. Seems like any attempt at literate expression would quickly melt into philosophical chattering. Lewis and Clark were hobnobbing with natives, studying plants and animals, working the fur trade, and questing through treacherous terrain in foul weather. There's a story there, an actual narrative. Call me crazy, but the uncharted American West was a meatier subject than outer space. But yes, it's true, William Clark lacked a formal education and he was still probably handier with the quill than you average NASA scientist.

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