A long time ago - why does it seem like only yesterday? - I rode west on the back of a Harley Sportster. We broke down for eight days in Pierre, South Dakota. A Sportster is not the motorcycle to take cross country. But we did what we could with what we had.
I have recounted a small part of that journey in my first novel, The Year of the Crow , in a chapter beginning, "It was raining on the Powder River Pass." I also recounted it in a letter to an old friend, a friend who loved his work but was unhappy with his life. I was always recommending remedial actions which he found disconcerting, at best. He is a man who was never certain that happiness was a worthwhile, not to mention achievable, goal. Searching for happiness, he maintained, was dangerous.
And yet, eventually he did take an action, not at my behest, and not in rebellion, but in love. I like to believe that today he is not only content, but very possibly happy.
Back in 1979, however, he answered my letter with this:
"I never plan to do anything in Pierre, South Dakota. I am in awe of your journey. Having driven my VW Camper in the Big Horns in '75, I can appreciate the scenery more than I can understand your endurance.
"It's a beautiful fall day. The world seems content and interesting. And almost safe. I have pondered your suggestion that I do something slightly dangerous. I ponder a lot, of course. You have a good point. But everything seems dangerous to me. Is dangerous.
"I read a lot - very dangerous books. I recommend The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations as nearly perfect. The World According to Garp , too. And Love in the Western World , by Denis de Rougemont."