Synopses & Reviews
A man-made wonder, a connective network, an economic force, a bringer of blight and sprawl and the possibility of escape—the U.S. interstate system transformed America. The Big Roads
presents the surprising history of how we got from dirt tracks to expressways in the space of a single lifetime.
Earl Swift brings to light the visionaries who created these essential highways as well as the critics and citizens who questioned their headlong expansion throughout the country, including:
- Carl Fisher, the irrepressible car-racing entrepreneur who spurred the push for good roads in the early years of the automobile, built the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and made a fortune creating Miami Beach, only to lose it all;
- Thomas MacDonald, chief among a handful of driven engineers who conceived of the interstates and how they would work, years before President Eisenhower knew the plans existed;
- Lewis Mumford, the critic whose crusade against America's budding love affair with the automobile—and the ever bigger roads it required—now seems prescient;
- Joe Wiles, an African American family man turned activist, one of thousands of ordinary citizens in dozens of cities who found their homes and communities targeted by the concrete juggernaut—and were unwilling to be uprooted in the name of progress.
In mapping a fascinating route through the dreams, discoveries, and protests that shaped these mighty roads, Swift shows that the interstates embody the wanderlust, grand scale, and conflicting notions of citizenship that define America.
"[Swift's] writing is easygoing, and [listeners] interested in urban planning as well as engineering will find a well-told story about a defining American feature." ---Publishers Weekly
"Narrator Rob Shapiro brings a sort of surprised enthusiasm to his reading, utilizing a kind of gee-whiz tone that carries listeners along almost as nicely as today's roadways." ---AudioFile
From author Earl Swift comes the surprising history of the U.S. interstate system, a fascinating route through the dreams, discoveries, and protests that shaped these mighty roads.
About the Author
Earl Swift is a five-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and the author of Journey on the James, the 2003 PEN finalist Where They Lay: Searching for America's Lost Soldiers, and the short story collection The Tangierman's Lament. He has written for newspapers in St. Louis, Anchorage, and Norfolk, Virginia, where his work won numerous state and national awards, and his writing has appeared in Parade magazine, Best Newspaper Writing, and River Teeth. Earl lives in Norfolk with his daughter, Saylor. Rob Shapiro got his professional start as an entertainer doing stand-up in Minneapolis while still in high school (the Children's Theatre Company and School of Minneapolis). As a voice-over artist, he can be heard narrating such audiobooks as the bestselling The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick, Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan, and the fantasy noir Low Town by Daniel Polansky. He performed several seasons of radio comedy on Minneapolis Public Radio and voiced the titular lion in Leo the Lion. Rob is also a musician and composer; with his critically acclaimed band, Populuxe, he has released two CDs-A Foggy Day in Brooklyn and Deep in an American Evening . . .-and the EP, Daphne. He is one half of the Velvet Collar, who released their first record, Double Standard, an unlikely collection of cover songs by the Stooges, Hoagy Carmichael, and the Gershwin Brothers, among others, in 2011. Finally, Rob is a business consultant and software system designer, specializing in desktop publishing and workflow efficiency, with clients and implemented systems spanning the globe.