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The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing…

The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live… (utgåvan 2010)

av Ted Conover

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
214394,751 (3.79)8
A spirited, urgent book that reveals the costs and benefits of being connected--how, from ancient Rome to the present, roads have played a crucial role in human life, advancing civilization even as they set it back.
Titel:The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today
Författare:Ted Conover
Info:Knopf (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 352 pages
Samlingar:Ditt bibliotek


The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today av Ted Conover


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Visar 3 av 3
Conover explores six key byways in various continents, journeys down these roads and records the stories of the men and women who use them. By hitching a ride on a truck in the Peruvian Andes that was carrying a load of rare mahogany, he understands more about the origins and the trade of the much sought after raw material for furniture destined for wealthy American homes. It was planned that an east-west route across South America will traverse this part of the Amazon Basin. He goes to northeastern India to a village high up in the Himalayan valleys, to join a group of teenagers in their slow (and for him, perilous) hike down to the main town through the frozen riverbed for the start of the school season. The existing road is open only for 5 months a year, so any journey to the town has to be done through this route. As a new all-weather road was going to be built to connect the isolated region of Ladakh to the region below, he may be seeing the last of these foot journeys over the ice.

In East Africa, he gets acquainted with truckers. Truckers, who drive from the coast to the interior and back have been linked to the spread of AIDS in the continent. In Kenya, he hitches a ride on a truck going to Rwanda. Along this trip, he finds out what the men, and the women they meet during their stops, think about AIDS. Everybody knew somebody who had died of it or were infected, knew a little bit about the science, but seemed content enough to leave things to fate. In the West Bank, he joins Israeli soldiers monitoring checkpoints, and passes through them with Palestinians. He witnesses the hardships, the injustices, and the danger borne by both sides. Inevitably, he feels a sense of futility in all this exercise at terrorizing each other. It is telling that Conover manages to meet a few Palestinian families in their homes, but was limited to interviewing Israeli soldiers in their posts.

In China, he joins members of an Auto Club in one of their cross-country trips, and got acquainted with the car culture boom of China, as highways are continually being built and new wealth afford the middle class new toys to pile up miles with. Conover, naturally, reflects on where it all could be headed -- the congestion, pollution, competition for increasingly scarce and expensive fuel -- all spell an environmental disaster in the making, but he also asks "They were out to have fun, the kind we've already had. Who are we to say we can't?" His last trip takes him to Lagos where he joins an emergency team stationed in a major intersection. There he sees only chaos and congestion on the freeways -- signal of the rise of a megacity.

There was no history and no context at all provided in any of the stories. His choice of location (road) was obvious only in some cases, and some people's stories do not seem to have a direct link to the road in question (e.g. Lagos, Peru). The only compelling example (and the better-written chapter as well, I think) was the West Bank story. Between these chapters, he inserts 3-4 page essays that are a mishmash of information. In one, he writes of Napoléon Bonaparte, Tenochtitlán, Third Reich, US road budget in Afghanistan, The Mad Max, The Road -- it's quite clear what he wanted to say -- that roads can be meant for war, the road as battleground -- but the idea is not neatly explored. Just irritating, rather than enlightening.

Overall, this is so-so reading on a topic that could have been infinitely interesting. ( )
  deebee1 | Sep 21, 2012 |
First a mini-rant. If publishers don't quit using the words change, changing, and changed in their titles and sub-titles I'm going to drop 47 sets of Encyclopedia Britannica on their collective head. The world changes everyday. Always has, always will. On to this 'changing' book.

Roads and routes play various roles in the locales where they are built or appear naturally. Conover travels to six places and describes what he finds there in regards to ground transportation. There are very interesting differences.

First is Peru and routes mahogany takes from the forests there to world markets. Then on to Zanskar in the Kashmir region of India. Here the route is a frozen river in deep canyons, in winter, that are traveled by foot. Next, the roads from eastern Africa in Mombasa to Kampala along with the truckers that work this area. Then, Israel and the West Bank where Israel has near total control of the roads. China and their new driving culture is the next stop. Cops don't give out many speeding tickets there. Kinda strange logic applied there. The he finishes up with ambulance crews in Lagos, Nigeria. Here there are five separate departments of police to deal with.

In between the places visited are short essays about roads. Ecology and roads, roads and national character and other such subjects. It was a glimpse of 21st century life in corners of the globe that most will never get to travel to in person. Conover is mostly level-headed and does well in trying to understand things from a local cultural level. There is not really a overarching theory to tie 'roads' together which is good. It's a mixture of travel, current events, a wee bit of politics, and journalism. ( )
1 rösta VisibleGhost | Mar 10, 2010 |
Visar 3 av 3
Conover’s travelogues can be fascinating in and of themselves, and his meditations about roads frequently achieve an even higher order — thoughtful, temperate and generous all at once... [But] as is usually the case with such assemblages, “The Routes of Man” is uneven in the quality of its parts, its overall coherence incomplete.
Mr. Conover is good company wherever he goes. And he writes most comfortably when not forced to grasp for larger meaning. If “The Routes of Man” did not occasionally strain for an overview, it would be a colorful, eagerly open-minded travelogue about a slew of very different places that have only one thing in common: Mr. Conover’s determination to explore them. He’s a better adventurer than he is a philosopher.
Despite his apparent fearlessness, Conover, thankfully, is no cowboy journalist. His modesty and compassion make "The Routes of Man" less a series of travel adventures than an empathetic look at the contradictory effects of modernity.
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A spirited, urgent book that reveals the costs and benefits of being connected--how, from ancient Rome to the present, roads have played a crucial role in human life, advancing civilization even as they set it back.

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