From Omaha to San Francisco, Bain and his family retraced the entire route of the first transcontinental railroad and discovered the deep, restless, uniquely American spirit of adventure.From Omaha to San Francisco, Bain and his family retraced the entire route of the first transcontinental railroad and discovered the deep, restless, uniquely American spirit of adventure.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 2004-04-05 Bain plumbed the history of America's West in Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad, and he elegantly broadens his scope here by logging 7,000 miles from his home in Vermont to California with a wife and daughter who'd never been to the West Coast and an eight-year-old son who'd never left the East Coast. Bain first takes them to the capacious Kansas City home where his grandparents lived, finding a "forgotten waste" (the house had been razed), a discovery illustrating one of Bain's themes: the curious interplay of past and present. He uses physical entities-museums, abandoned highways, the pioneers' still-discernible wagon wheel ruts-to swerve into historical forays that deftly and palpably engage. Bain lassoes the usual suspects-Calamity Jane, Butch Cassidy, Buffalo Bill Cody-but his prodigious research also reveals the stories of forgotten figures like Esther Hobart Morris, a Wyoming suffragist who was the first American woman to receive a civil appointment (as justice of the peace of South Pass City), and western writer Owen Wister, who helped establish the cowboy as an American archetype. Bain's main concern, however, isn't merely to foster a dialogue between the 19th-century Old West and its contemporary incarnation, but to fashion a literary travelogue. In that capacity, he's an intriguing guide (he eloquently describes the easy familiarity of the road by explaining why he doesn't let on to Bruce Hornsby that he knows who he is when their two families happen to meet). Bain bypasses a facile sentimentality for a more complex portrait of the American West. B&w photos not seen by PW. Agent, Ellen Levine. (On sale May 10) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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