Richard Shelton follows in the rich tradition of American travel literature his 1989 journey from
Clearly Shelton is concerned with voice and he exercises that voice to paint a wonderful view of his quest, but make no mistake, his purpose, like that of his predecessors, goes beyond the travelogue. Like Steinbeck Shelton names his van, coloring the audience view of this trip. Steinbeck had a quixotic atmosphere and Blue Boy evokes, for this reading, both the famous painting and a line from a long forgotten ELO lyric.
Shelton’s travel persona, like that of his predecessors; Twain, Stevenson, Kerouac and Steinbeck is not in control, that is the trip is the controlling metaphor for the narrative and “We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this, a journey is like a marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. I feel better now, having said this, although only those who have experienced it will understand it." (Charley)
And so it goes with Richard Shelton, Blue Boy and the
Before turning to the motion and conflict at the heart of Going Back it is appropriate to ponder
Like Kerouac Shelton says, “And I am going back to Bisbee, not really knowing why?”(21). Clearly Shelton is playing the con game here, either with himself, with the reader, or more likely both, for later
Like Melville, Twain, Stevenson, Kerouac and Steinbeck,
Unlike the tradition of writers who document journeys or quests in American consciousness
He must go to Bisbee to his youth, the place of his marriage, the birth of his child and perhaps his own birth to confront the tensions that seem to characterize this middle aged Texan, transplanted to Arizona in love with the desert but in some way loathing himself. Unlike the frenetic gonzo trip of Kerouac or Thompson, Shelton quietly leaves the rat race in Tucson, leaves I -10 and takes the back road to Bisbee.
Notably the trip to Bisbee takes most of the book, the arrival is anticlimactic. But