Two Roads to Dodge City

The Nicolsons’ work is, in many ways, a very enlightening book for an American to read, for from it one may gain a sense of how a foreigner views our country. For example, early in the book the reader is given Adam’s impressions of the West and is at once delighted by his enthusiasm. He is enthralled by the roads in America, loves the sport of cutting and the rodeo, and seems genuinely to enjoy mingling with the “locals.” While in Santa Cruz, Adam sleeps through an earthquake and is so distressed that he launches into an explanation of Richter scales and other seismological data.

Meanwhile, Nigel travels the East coast. Differing greatly from his son, Nigel Nicolson prefers to concentrate on the past. He reflects on America’s history by visiting Monticello, Mulberry Plantation, and memorials dedicated to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. With each visit, the reader is reminded of many fascinating nuggets of history and is also entertained by Nicolson’s comments. The elder Nicolson does not, however, limit himself to historic sites. He investigates the state of current research at NASA and the Audubon Humana Hospital and also relates a very amusing account of his confusion at a baseball game.

Equally cited about their dislikes, the Nicolsons occasionally chastise America, usually with a first hand, and this often proves very interesting.

Unsavory aspects of the book includes Nigel’s elitism, his condescension regarding America’s treatment of the poor, and the cloying passages relating to the Nicolsons’ relationship, which they are desperately trying to straighten out. These points, however, should not obscure completely the merits of a work which is interesting, entertaining, and wonderfully written.