An American Memoir
“The inspiration is so simple: Head out at random into America and see what you find. James A. Reeves found the America no one seems to be looking for anymore, and he also found himself.”
“On The Road for a new century.”
—Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip
“James A. Reeves acts like he’s just another guy who took an American road trip. When he says he’s driven 55,000 miles back and forth across the U.S. in beat up rental cars, he says it as though that is just something people do even though it is exactly the sort of thing that nobody does. People don’t drive twice the length of the equator while listening to talk radio and taking photos of the various things that pique their interest. Maybe they should. The next page is always unexpected but never ill-considered and the writing hitches the hubris of the perpetual interloper to seemingly genuine empathy.”
—The Huffington Post
“Unpretentious and insightful, The Road to Somewhere is a photo memoir of James A. Reeves’s journey driving all over the United States. Through his photographs and candid, episodic storytelling, Reeves documents his experiences and the people he encounters in various regions of the United States, reflecting with uncommon honesty on both positive and negative aspects of the culture. Reeves’s obsession with driving long distances in rental cars is fuelled by his search to figure out what it means to be an adult and to live a meaningful life in a complicated world. His unique point of view clearly comes through in both his writing and images—quirky, beautiful, disturbing, humorous, and at times unexpectedly and achingly moving.”
“The sprawling The Road to Somewhere is part autobiography, part travelogue, part photo book. Its candid writing will enthrall some readers, and infuriate others. But it’s not boring, and it’s certainly thought-provoking . . . In other hands, The Road to Somewhere might have devolved into poseur prose. But Reeves’ humility keeps that from happening. That lack of pretension — plus his observant eye — keep you reading. Recommended.”
—Route 66 News
“A tantalizing 21st Century cross between James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, this remarkable and utterly original memoir heralds the arrival of a new and important American voice. James A. Reeves’s The Road to Somewhere will take you places you will not easily forget.”
—Andre Dubus III
“There is vulgar language throughout and one picture that may raise some eyebrows.”
—The Deseret News
The Road to Somewhere: An American Memoir is my first book. The back of the cover says, “A photo memoir of one man’s journey through America that is as sprawling and chaotic as the country itself.” Contains 55,000 miles and 416 colorful pages with a map and an index. Published by W. W. Norton.
The Road to Somewhere is an unusual and seductive book, one that speaks honestly and without pretension about contemporary ambivalence and anxiety, and the countless miles we travel looking for answers. By the time he was twenty-eight, James A. Reeves had bounced through numerous jobs — everything from a carpet salesman and barista to an elementary school teacher and record label owner — eventually finding himself settled in New York in the early aughts, with the country itself on the verge of a breakdown. While working at a design studio and teaching, whenever he could find a few days he would buy a ticket to anywhere cheap, rent a car, and drive in the direction of whatever towns struck his fancy — Truth & Consequences, Delta, Dinosaur — racing blindly through the back roads of the country. He was troubled by his aimless career path and his inability to know what should come next on the way to manhood, to a meaningful life, and he found himself unable to resist comparing his choices to the more straightforward and honorable path followed by his grandfather and, to a lesser degree, his father.
The Road to Somewhere is a bold visual testament to taking it all in, the heartbreaking grit of lonely motels, the inescapable allure of Vegas neon glaze, and the tremendous power of storytelling. In a time when so many invest in virtual relationships, this book is a celebration of personal interactions with strangers and a love song to the physical exhaustion that comes after hours of driving, when the road gets blurry and the voices on the radio sound like raw static.
Much like the national climate of 2004 when Reeves first started this exploration, there’s an increasing polarization happening across the nation today, with an alarming uptick in debate about what the “real America” might be. In the midst of the emotional tirades and fear-mongering, Reeves’s humility is reinvigorating. He drifts along the Mexican border and the Louisiana gulf, rattled by civic decay and reassured by small moments of grace. Now in New Orleans, his is a voice of integrity and civic responsibility that doesn’t pretend to have it all figured out just yet. Reeves’s drives quickly transformed from something observational and political into something much more personal. What resulted from 55,000 miles and five years is a photo-memoir that captures an American moment that is both unsettled and transcendent.
“Comparisons to Kerouac are natural, but Reeves is a solitary wanderer who traverses the country mostly in the isolation of a rental car… In our contemporary world of entitlement, when adolescence extends indefinitely, through what threshold does one cross into adulthood? The Road to Somewhere offers no solutions but the model of a spirited approach…”
—Rain Taxi Review
“I didn’t want to get out when the Dollar Rent A Car finally ground to a halt five years later in New Orleans, for Reeves had opened his heart on the pages of The Road to Somewhere and I wanted to keep reading. I truly felt as though I had been in the car with him, so vivid and personal was his writing.”
Signed edition with stickers, photographs, miscellany
Paperback / 7.6 × 9in / color / 411 pages
Published by W. W. Norton
August 2011ISBN 978-0-393-34005-1
Nobody could smoke a cigarette like Linda Darnell.
Stories from the white spaces on the map.
A dub field of mid-century blues.
Love among the ruins.
Lonely gas stations and motel neon.
Her best friend was a little battery-powered radio.
He felt close to her while he drove, his insides vibrating like a teenage dream.
Somewhere Roy Orbison plays on a battered old radio.
There’s no such thing as weirding out the normals these days.
Things I’ve read that altered me.
The gatefold sleeve and dusty touch, the hiss and pop.
Notes and scrawls from my seminars.