In a slow car through Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, August 27, 2009

In a slow car through Arkansas

Posted By on Thu, Aug 27, 2009 at 8:11 PM

LUGUBRIOUS? Theroux's adjective for Central High.

Paul Theroux, the famous travel writer, wrote about a great American road trip for Smithsonian magazine. The Arkansas sojourn (thanks SF):

The straight, flat, fast I-40, which I'd been using, with detours, all the way from Arizona, now followed the general contour and sometimes the course of the Arkansas River, a major feeder into the Mississippi and the waterfront of Little Rock. Little Rock, the name, had been on my mind since I'd been a boy. It signified racial confrontation, the most divisive American issue of my school days. Black students exactly my age were at first kept from attending Central High when it became integrated in 1957; finally President Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne Division to ensure their entrance.

I drove past Central High, a lugubrious building, then headed to the Clinton Library, looking like a prettified trailer home cantilevered off the bank of the muddy river. But this riverfront, where I had lunch at the Flying Saucer café, was the liveliest part of what seemed to me a melancholy city.

All the way to Memphis I dodged the big scary trucks, and also realized that I had judged Arkansas a little too harshly, because the eastern part of the state was rich in agriculture, with plowed fields and sloping woods, as far as the Mississippi. Monumental in its size and its slowness, meandering through the middle of the great country, the river is a symbol of the life and history of the land, the "strong brown god" in the words of T. S. Eliot, who was born upstream in St. Louis.

Pretty original, eh, particularly that trailer comparison.

 

 


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