Riding Toward Everywhere

Scott Bryan Wilson in The Quarterly Conversation:

William_vollmannRiding Toward Everywhere, this year’s new book from the prolific William T. Vollmann, is a nonfiction account of his adventures hopping freight trains and trying out the hobo lifestyle as a person lurking “literally and figuratively in the shadows.” His traveling companion is a late middle-aged man named Steve who seems to have been riding the trains for “sport” (Vollmann’s term) since college. Steve is the “traincar-finder and [Vollmann] the people-pleaser.”

If you’re at all familiar with Vollmann’s work you know that he can talk to anyone about anything, and Steve usually opts to run to the liquor store while Vollmann stays behind and hangs out drinking with bums, of whom they only meet a few, treating them with his usual compassion and non-judgmental attitude. We get little information about Steve himself, though. Whether this was at Steve’s request is unclear, but what is clear is that he’s married, has kids, is an expert at the sport (or as close to an expert as one can be; Vollmann insists that no one is ever an expert at riding the rails), and often flies out of cities he’s found himself stuck in, and that he’s respectful of the boxcars and the trains, never urinating in them or leaving trash behind.

More here.  [Photo shows Vollman.]