Thursday, December 07, 2006

GRAY HIGHWAY: AN AMERICAN UFO JOURNEY by Matthew Holm and Jonathan Follett (Toadspittle Hill Productions)

Ten years ago, recent college grads Matthew Holm (Penn State) and Jonathan Follett (Boston University) decided to take what they termed a "working vacation", a cross-country journey of finding the most popular UFO sites. Their journey took place during the height (keep your dissention to yourselves) of The X Files, and while interest in aliens may have waned (some) since then, this travel memoir is delightful, clever, and compelling--and here's why:

First, let me say that I'm not that interested in extraterrestrials; most of my attention was drawn to David Duchovny's vague comeliness. What makes GRAY HIGHWAY so accessible is that the authors are not experts (nor even compulsive adherents) on the subject. They are every-day dudes, writing a memoir that is anything but rote.

The story and writing is marvelous; the style, quite assuredly, is an even blend of SIDEWAYS (some of the best sections/writing is what happens between locales), UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN, and STATES OF MIND. And the book is put together well, too (read: not churned out using a basic POD template from one of the big POD publishers), using stylish fonts and maps of the places they visited, and looks (not [intentionally] trying to disparage iU or Authorhouse here) like it was designed by a team of folks at Simon & Schuster or Random House.

The writing is intelligent, and their commentary on the people and locations brings more to light than fanaticism; it's an impressionist painting of this nation. Holm and Follett visit various spots on their quest for alien info: Pascagoula, Murfreesboro, Roswell (of course), White Sands (of course), El Cajon, and a slew of others make an appearance and leave an indelible mark on the reader.

At risk of disparaging the other books I have reviewed here (and I'm absolutely not doing that) GRAY HIGHWAY is one of the most unPODlike books I've read to date. It's fantastic reading--and a must for everyone who likes buddy books, travel memoirs (remember, you'll learn as much about Americana as you do UFOs) and, of course, extraterrestrials. But most of all, it's a highly-memorable book for lovers of literature.

It's $11.95 on Amazon--and the perfect holiday gift for that one open spot left on your list.