A. N. Devers | Bloomsbury 2018
Object Lessons is a series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things.
Triggering severe nostalgia and denoting adventure, mystery, and glamour, the passenger train is still portrayed as the most romantic mode of transportation in history. But what does long-distance travel by train really add up to today? In 2005, after quitting not only a successful museum job, but a profession, writer A. N. Devers bought a 30-day rail pass and circumnavigated the United States (and a bit of Canada), disembarking and visiting over a dozen towns and cities, finding that the passenger car was at once adventure and a nightmare – the promise of self-discovery and renewal via train trip was only a daydream.
Instead she emerged from her 8,111-mile journey with a close view of America's crumbling infrastructure and the decaying communities alongside the tracks. The train, it turns out, is a portal to what might have existed if America's rails hadn't been sold off and bought out.
Object Lessons is published in partnership with an essay series in The Atlantic.