As a young child in the 1950s, Michael was transferred to the care of his estranged, alcoholic father. Despite his mother’s stern warnings to do right by their son, Michael and his dad set off hitchhiking across the country. Trading his schoolbooks for a tattered Rand McNally atlas, Michael spent most of his childhood crisscrossing the country—rarely attending class, surviving on shoplifted sardines and sugared bread, sleeping in rundown rooming houses, and rousing his soused dad from seedy bars. The twosome was perpetually en route to someplace else.
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Keith at 10 years old
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Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 2003. Paperback 2004.
In 1959, at the age of eleven, Michael Keith ditched his relatively stable life with his mother and sisters in Albany, New York, and surreptitiously set off hitchhiking out West with his estranged, alcoholic dad. His memoir, told without sentimentality in the funny, world-wise voice of the young boy he once was, describes the bizarre characters they encounter in the rundown rooming houses and homeless missions of Pittsburgh and Ft. Worth, where they hole up as Michael's father works odd jobs to make enough money for them to move on; in the carnivals of the Midwest and the casinos of Las Vegas, where Michael dreams of Hollywood stardom; and in every two-bit town along the way, where they attend AA meetings just for a cup of coffee and a decent doughnut.
The Next Better Place explores the fine line between wanderlust and compulsion, between running away and arriving, and will resonate for anyone who has enjoyed the work of Tobias Wolff, Jack Kerouac, and William Kennedy.
A LEADING SCHOLAR IN ELECTRONIC MEDIA