Hunting Mister Heartbreak
Hunting Mister Heartbreak
Following in the footsteps of countless emigrants, Jonathan Raban takes ship for New York from Liverpool, to explore how succeeding generations of newcomers have fared in America. He finds a country of massive contrasts, between the ‘Street People’ and the ‘Air People’ in New York, between small town and big city, between thrusting immigrants and down-at-heel Native Americans. Having outgrown his minute, rented, New York apartment, he heads for Guntersville, Alabama, where he settles for a few months as a good ol’ boy in a cabin on the lake with an elderly ‘rented’ labrador. From there he flies to the promise of Seattle, talking with its thrusting but alienated Asian community, and thence to the watery lowlife of Key West. The result is a breathtaking observation of the States – a travelogue, a social history and a love letter in one.
‘Of all his generation’s travellers, Jonathan Raban is the most sophisticated, writing with a subtle and imaginative brilliance.’ Colin Thubron
‘I go back to the work of Jonathan Raban very frequently, to be reminded what first-rate prose looks like on the page … Raban’s attachment to … the solitary journey brings out the very, very best in his writing and his caustic wit always gives an engrossing edge to tales of human bravery in a blighted world.’ Rose Tremain
Hunting Mister Heartbreak: A Discovery of America
Format: 336pp demi pb
Place: America, USA
Born in the middle of the Second World War in 1942, Jonathan Raban was brought up in Norfolk by his mother, who not only taught her son to read, but shared her own delight in writing and good storytelling with him. Jonathan’s relationship with his father, who returned from the war a total stranger and a hero, and went on to be an Anglican clergyman, was much more complex. The tension between this moral martinet and his louche and feckless son seems to have fuelled Raban’s knowing and savagely funny critique of his own British culture, and to have enabled him to escape his homeland with such relish.
Raban read English at the University of Hull and was briefly an academic before launching himself as a freelance writer, becoming part of the brilliant and hard-drinking literary crowd centred around Ian Hamilton’s New Review. A freelance assignment for the BBC, recording Freya Stark barging down the Euphrates, inspired his first travel book, Arabia: Through the Looking Glass (1979). He went on to float down the Mississipi (Old Glory, 1981) and sail round the shores of Britain (Coasting, 1986). For Love and Money (1987) is a searingly honest memoir and a funny and affectionate look at the freelance writing trade, while the journey described in Hunting Mr Heartbreak (1990), into and across America, led him to settle in Seattle. The birth of a daughter confirmed the city as home. While in the States, Raban has written Bad Land (1996), Passage to Juneau (1999) and Driving Home (2011) as well as such fictional works as Waxwings (2003) and Surveillance (2006).