In the summer of 2017, I was one of five Scottish writers chosen by Edinburgh International Book Festival to undertake journeys across the Americas.
I travelled through the United States for three weeks, from north to south, beginning in North Dakota, through Appalachia, and ending in Louisiana. For much of this time I was accompanied by the novelist Jennifer Haigh. I wrote the diary posts below as we travelled.
Yesterday, Jennifer and I experienced the madness that is Nashville on a Friday night. Along Broadway, almost every street-front building is a bar – with live bands playing something akin to country music – or else a purveyor of boots and shirts – selling something akin to 'Western apparel'. There are people everywhere. Neither Jennifer nor I are quite cut out for this kind of nightlife, so we chose the quietest bar we could find, and then retired to our hotel feeling old.
After queuing for a breakfast of biscuits and gravy, we set out for the Natchez Trace Parkway, a 'scenic' drive south, that will take us most of the way to our final destination. (Scenic is perhaps not quite the right word, since the road is surrounded by trees, but it is certainly a more relaxing drive than the interstate.)
At Tupelo we left the Trace for the day and headed to Oxford, home of Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi. We visited Rowan Oak, first of all – the home of William Faulkner – and wandered through the hot, humid grounds. We did not pay the $5 to go inside. Somehow it seemed you could learn more in those gardens than you could by gazing at beds, tables and writing desks in the house.