The United States
The United States, a different state being discussed in each chapter. The novel has no characters in the accepted sense. The reader is presented with a map of the United States and then, as the title suggests, is led from city to city and from state to state, with signs at state lines welcoming the visitor. Mobile is written in the fashion of a quilt, with the reader moving along the roads of the United States in cars of every make (Studebaker, Cadillac, Nash, Edsel, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Volkswagen) and color (from pink to orange, from white to black). As in any quilt, there are repetitions, such as the hellos of friendly Americans and descriptions of Audubon’s birds. The traveler may stop and get any flavor of ice cream at the next Howard Johnson motel. The United States is a New Europe composed of New Europeans—German, French, Irish, Hungarian, and Spanish—who read newspapers in their own language in their own neighborhoods. The immigrants move west, befriending the Indians or attacking and making them mobile. Persecuted, the New Europeans become the New Persecutors. Mormons flee the Midwest and settle in Salt Lake City. Religions abound in the new society, Episcopalian, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Christian Science among them. The Italians are here as well. Giovanni da Verrazzano discovers New York, a patchwork now composed of the Upper West Side, Fifth Avenue, Little Italy, Macy’s, and Bloomingdale’s. Washington, D.C., is the capital of the United States, the pantheon of the country’s gods, and the center of the only religion to be truly practiced. The buildings are a shimmering white. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin form part of the American pantheon, with their respective monuments in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and their own monumental writings. The reader is shifted about, from name to name and flavor to flavor, from colonial times to standard time (Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific) and to time fixed in one space: the museum of colonial homes in Shelburne, Vermont. The museum holds quilts and Impressionist paintings, showing the presence of the French. The quilt is filled with shifts, designs, and colors. The author’s name, in the manner of a painter’s signature or Alfred Hitchcock film appearance, is inscribed (butor is a French word meaning “bittern” or “boor”) many times in this patchwork.