Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey
by William Least Heat-Moon
(Little, Brown, $27.99)
Quoz is not a place on any map. According to travel writer William Least Heat-Moon, author of the 1982 blockbuster Blue Highways, a quoz is “anything strange, incongruous, or peculiar; at its heart is the unknown, the mysterious.” When one selects it as a destination, America’s interstates aren’t an option. You have to be ready to turn at the first handmade sign advertising “mayhaw jelly.” You have to be ready to lose a day in conversation with a woman who lives contentedly in a 117-square-foot dwelling in the middle of the desert. You have to possess a curiosity fertile enough to wonder whatever happened to the “other” expedition that Thomas Jefferson sent out while Lewis and Clark were blazing a path to the Pacific. Mostly, you have to have time.
Roads to Quoz is no “crassly exploitative sequel” to Blue Highways, said Cliff Froehlich in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “The book’s closest analog might be The Godfather: Part II, an even more fecund work than the original” because past and present are allowed to interweave. Whereas the Heat-Moon of 1982 was a 38-year-old divorcé searching for self, the relaxed spirit who guides us through Quoz has a witty second wife at his side and no great personal needs clouding his vision. What we get is simply a series of excursions covering 16,000 miles over a three-year span, said Steve Weinberg in The Kansas City Star. All the while, Heat-Moon “demonstrates such a sharp intelligence,” such fine phrasing, and such “relentless curiosity” that a reader never worries about the fact that there’s no overarching thesis.
Heat-Moon’s style isn’t for everybody, said Irene Wanner in The Seattle Times. His “self-consciously studied prose often becomes laborious,” and it’s hard to understand why he opens the whole book with a digression about words beginning with the letter Q. “But in the end,” said Doug Colligan in The Wall Street Journal, “Heat-Moon’s enthusiasm for wherever he happens to be carries the day.” The only message this book needs is written on every page: Beyond the malls and chain restaurants that ring the expressways, a “complex and fascinating country is still out there for those who take the time to park, get out, and look around.”