“Welcome to Utah” is a chapter excerpted from Mobile: Étude pour une représentation des États-Unis (1962; Mobile: Study for a Representation of the United States, 1963), a larger work that attempts to render the essential quality of each American state. Like an imaginary guidebook to the United States, this work takes readers through all the states in the Union, in alphabetical order according to the alliance of place-names: From Lebanon, New Jersey, it switches to Lebanon, Ohio, and then to towns with the same name in Indiana and Illinois, for example. There are no characters or plot in the conventional sense; its fifty chapters—each devoted to one of the fifty states and covering a forty-eight-hour time span—provide an abundance of descriptive and interpretive material about the country.
The chapters are linked by the mere invocation of town names duplicated in several states as well as by the longer continuing text of the narrator’s running commentary on American history, the history of American Indians, and African American history. Comments on the time in each place and secondary material (such as catalogs, advertisements, road signs, restaurant menus, and quotations from famous historical figures) are incorporated into the text.
There is no action in the story, merely the illusion of interstate travel. The reader is carried along by the chain of associations, both temporal and spatial, provided by the narrator and by his imaginative use of quotations. The reader gains an impression of the United States that is at once startling and accurate: startling because of the frequent reminders of the suffering of America’s many disfranchised peoples at the hands of white colonists, and accurate in its history and...
(The entire section is 725 words.)