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Auto Biography: A Classic Car, an Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dreamby Earl Swift
Synopses & Reviews
An unforgettable ode to American car culture, award-winning author Earl Swift's wise, funny, and captivating narrative follows an outlaw-genius motorhead as he attempts to restore an iconic 1957 Chevy from rusted-out wreck to gleaming, chromed work of American art—before the FBI closes in
A classic '57 Chevy, in wretched shape: Its surviving paint is sun-bleached, salt-pocked, and cracked like a dry lakebed. Its engine hasn't turned over in years. Slumped among hundreds of other rusting hulks on a windswept patch of eastern North Carolina, the Chevy evokes none of the Jet Age optimism that made it the most beloved and instantly recognizable car to ever roll off an assembly line.
But for its unlikely rescuer—a felon arrested seventy-odd times, and a man who's been written off as a ruin himself—the Chevy isn't junk, it's a fossil of the twentieth-century American experience, of a people devoted to and forever changed by the automobile. For Tommy Arney, it's a piece of history, especially so because its decrepit skin conceals a rare asset: a complete provenance, stretching back more than fifty years through twelve previous owners. So, hassled by banks and the FBI, the Chevy's thirteenth owner embarks on a mission to save the car and preserve the long record of human experience it carries with it—before his own volatile demons doom him and the car.
Earl Swift's masterful narrative charts the shifting dreams and fortunes of the people who've gripped this endangered icon's steering wheel, and in the process captures America's strange and abiding relationship with the automobile as no book has before.
"In this engrossing and entertaining book, Swift (The Big Roads) tells the story of a car — not the story of a classic car model, but the story of a particular 1957 Chevy owned, in the 57 years since its manufacture, by 14 different people. While at first the conceit may seem itself too manufactured, the narrative tactful unfolds with deeply human stories of struggle, ambition, hopes, dreams. The book's main thread follows Tommy Arney, a charming, foul-mouthed, and endlessly interesting businessman, who is tasked with restoring the Chevy to its original glory. We learn along the way the life of the vehicle and how it fit into the lives of its previous owners; we learn too of Arney's past, marked by violence and struggles of his own. Swift is a wonderful guide and the stories he relates are engaging in their own right. Yielded together, though, these vignettes take on a fuller meaning, as the restoration becomes social metaphor. (May)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A brilliant blend of Shop Class as Soulcraft and The Orchid Thief, Earl Swifts wise, funny, and captivating Auto Biography follows an outlaw-genius auto mechanic as he painstakingly attempts to restores a classic 1957 Chevy to its former glory—all while the FBI and local law enforcement close in.
To Tommy Arney, the old cars at Moyock Muscle are archeological artifacts, twentieth-century fossils that represent a place and a people utterly devoted to the automobile and transformed by it. But to his rural North Carolina town, theyre not history; theyre junk. When Tommy acquires a rusted out wreck of an old Chevy and promises to return it to a shiny, chromed work of American art, he sees one last chance to salvage his respect, keep himself out of jail, and save his business. But for this folk hero who is often on the wrong side of the law, the odds of success are long, especially when the FBI, local authorities, and the bank are closing in.
Written for motor heads and automotive novices alike, Auto biography interweaves this improbable heros journey with the story of one iconic car to chart the rise, fall, and rebirth of the American Dream. Told in words and eight pages of photos, this wise, charming, and heartbreaking true story is an indelible portrait of a man, a machine, and a nation on the road from a glorious past into an unknown future.
About the Author
Journalist Earl Swift has written five books, including The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways (2011). Since 2012 he has been a residential fellow of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at the University of Virginia.
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