Mid-Saturday evening and once again dissatisfied with the bargain books on offer near the DVDs in the electronics section at Walmart Supercenter on Carl Boyer Drive, I walked back to where Mom, Dad and Meridith were, near the chips-and-crackers aisles, but stopped upon seeing that on all the flatscreen TVs, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was playing, specifically the scene where Harry seeks a wand with the help of Mr. Ollivander (John Hurt). He tries out two that cause some damage, and then he holds one that is clearly it. Light builds up behind him, a slight wind blows around him. He feels its power; it was obviously made for him.
That's how I felt toward midnight last night, having had enough of the TV and the computer in the living room, much more in favor of reading in my room. At first, I thought I'd attach my mp3 player to my radio and listen to that while reading, but Trucker: A Portrait of the last American Cowboy (as it's titled) by Jane Stern requires complete silence in order to know the roads, the personalities, the lives of the truckers profiled in this best and most definitive book on the American trucking industry, from its history to the present-day '70s, as this was published in 1975. Stern wrote this book solo, and her husband, Michael Stern, took the lively black-and-white photos featured in the pages.
It's not hard to find books that take you on vast adventures, but rare is the one that makes one particular industry utterly fascinating. Stern harbors no judgment on how these truckers live. What would seem to be an unkind word toward them is merely stating how the trucker feels. Stern doesn't couch her words in some grander scheme of life. This is how these men (and few women) live and work. It's just like you and me, living according to our beliefs, our loves, our passions, and our quirks.
This is my wand. It's different from the books that have previously inspired me, that have made me want to write like that. With those, there was a surface feeling of it. I remember those books, I remember what makes me want to write in those styles, but Trucker has burrowed deeper into me. Stern just gets to it. Here are these lives. See who they are. That's it. It's language created not only by extensive research, but actually traveling with many of these truckers, spending a lot of time at truck stops and at the other places truckers frequent. You're right there with them.