home freeRecently a reader of my book Home Free: An American Road Trip asked me: “I’d guess traveling around the country during the 2012 election would have been interesting, but do you wish you’d done the same for 2016???? ūüėÄ”

It’s an intriguing, pregnant question. On an obvious level, there’s an obvious answer: Heck, yeah. What alert, ambitious reporter would not have wanted to be driving around America during the fall of 2016?

But truly, I’m glad I drove around America when I did and wrote the book that I wrote. For one thing, the 2016 election is a carcass that will be picked over for decades to come by many other writers; I’m not needed for that task. And what I did was something that needed doing – and that now can no longer be done, because time moves in only one direction. What I did was to pay attention to and document various slices of American experience and perspective at a particular historical moment. The half- (but only half-) joking way that I found myself putting this – even before 2016 – is that 2012 might turn out to have been the last normal presidential election in American history.

If so, then I’m especially glad to have traveled when I did, and Home Free preserves, as in amber, a version of the United States of America to which¬†we might want to make reference in coming years, as we try to rebuild a polity or polities amid the ruins of what happened in 2016.

Very near the end of Home Free, I included a passage that I hoped would pique my reader’s imagination:

One of the motivating premises of my project had been that America was not separate or different from the rest of the world. I had proven that, at least to my own satisfaction. And I had seen for myself that while the United States, plural, might be in some sense a single country, they are also an archipelago of disparate communities. Whether the center would hold was an open question.

In the summer of¬†2013, when I wrote that passage, it would still have been very credible for a reader to ask pointedly what the heck I thought I was getting at. Now, I think it’s clear enough – to the extent that anything is clear – that I was onto something. The center is failing to hold. The new question is: Now what?

That’s the question I address, episodically and incompletely, in my new book America: Now What? and Other Questions. The book is a collection of essays and speeches that developing events compelled me to write¬†between early 2013 and late 2016. That time period is already, clearly, a historically significant one. As I reread the pieces and prepare them for publication in book form later this year, I’m both astonished and gratified to find that, collectively, they really do constitute a coherent book-length sequel to Home Free.

Watch this space, as I use this blog¬†to continue reflecting¬†on what I saw, heard, and learned during my 2012 Home Free road trip. I also will be sharing some of the essays from America: Now What?¬†To start with, I invite you to read the essay that I wrote over the ten days immediately following the 2016 presidential election, “What Can I Say?: In Search of Starting Points and New Words. That essay will be included in America: Now What? but you can open or download it as a PDF, with my compliments, from this link.

You can also support the publication of America: Now What? and Other Questions (and receive a complimentary copy of Home Free: An American Road Trip) by pre-purchasing it for $14.95 plus $3.95 shipping: