Paths of Progress
THE ROUTES OF MAN: How Roads Are Changing the World, and the Way We Live Today. By Ted Conover. Knopf. 333 pp. $ 26.95
When I traveled to the struggling ski-resort town of Davis, West Virginia, this past winter, all the locals I met seemed to want to know how I had gotten there. They talked about the highway that has been inching their way for years. Most looked forward to the flood of tour ists and prosperity they thought the project would bring, but others saw only the prospect of unwelcome change. Although Ted Conover writes about far more exotic places than hard scrabble West Virginia in The Routes of Man, he sees its conflict everywhere: The coming of new roads distills the modern dilemma over progress and its discontents.
Somewhere in Conover’s mind is the analytical intelligence of a social scientist, but his book is mostly a bracing immersion in a half-dozen places that have been or will be changed by highways, with a few brief excursions into subjects such as the history of Roman road building. In Africa, he joins truckers hauling freight between the Kenyan port of Mombasa and the African interior, the route many believe carried AIDS to the wider world. China, the West Bank, and the Peruvian Amazon are among his other destinations.
If you want ...
Research, browse, and discover more than 35 years of articles, essays, and reviews by preeminent scholars and writers. Our searchable archive of back issues is free for WQ subscribers.
Steven Lagerfeld is editor of The Wilson Quarterly.more from this author >>