On the road with Danny Lyon

A Google search for ‘Danny Lyon’ produces more than eight million results in 0.30 seconds, yet the celebrated American photojournalist and filmmaker is little known in the UK. This superb, quixotic, bare-all memoir ought to change that. Starting in 1962, Lyon not only photographed the heroes of the US civil rights movement as staff photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced ‘snick’), but in a way was one of the heroes himself, risking jail, beatings and abuse. He’s had prizes galore and two solo shows at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2016 he had a major retrospective in San Francisco and at the Whitney; and also a

Ethel, Ella and all that jazz: the soundtrack of a Chicago childhood

Margo Jefferson’s Constructing a Nervous System compresses memoir and cultural criticism into one slim, explosive volume, and in doing so the Pulitzer Prize-winning author makes both forms new. Hers is a wry, intimate portrayal of a passionate and intellectual woman coming to maturity: ‘Older women’s tales… are hard to pull off,’ she writes: ‘They risk being arch.’ But Jefferson is never arch. Her eye is too keen and her aim too true. She turns her clear gaze and razor-sharp intellect on America past and present, where freedoms are skewed and limited by race and gender. The book is about the second half of a life, which is where the real

The little slice of Route 66 that you can tackle in 24 hours

Blake Shelton’s ‘God’s Country’ plays on the radio as bolts of lightning tear through dark clouds, illuminating the corn fields of the Midwest. ‘Slow down,’ demands Mum, clutching her seat. It’s clear she’s grateful the rental company did not give me the muscle car that I was hoping for. We’re on America’s ‘Mother Road’, otherwise known as Route 66. Or what’s left of it that is. The original highway ran 2,448 miles cross-country from the city of Chicago, Illinois, to the beaches of Santa Monica in California, but was replaced in the 1950s by the Interstate. Although 66 is no longer still officially a highway, and you can’t drive along

Wrapped up in satire, a serious lesson about the fine line between success and scandal

Have you heard of champing? Neither had I. Turns out it’s camping in a field beside a deserted church. When it rains, you abandon your flimsy tent and instead bed down in the hushed aisles. At the beginning of Ferdinand Mount’s new novel, Making Nice, Dickie Pentecost and his wife Jane, together with their daughters Flo and Lucy, are doing just that. In the morning they meet fellow champer Ethel, short for Ethelbert, a bewitching man with stony eyes and sticking-up hair. ‘Ethel,’ says Dickie. ‘I suppose they could have shortened it to Bert instead.’ After losing his job as the diplomatic editor of a national newspaper (‘Who needs diplomatic

America sees red: how fury prompted the slide into Trumpism

After leaving college more than two decades ago, Evan Osnos landed a job on the Exponent Telegram, one of two daily papers published for the 16,400 citizens living in the West Virginia town of Clarksburg. Like many local reporters in those far-off days before the internet, he covered pretty much everything in his community, from boxing bouts and house fires to local politics and miners’ strikes. Later, working abroad in China and the Middle East, he would often check the paper’s website to keep up with events, observing from afar the drastic decline of both his own industry and the Appalachian state. West Virginia was a Democratic stronghold when Osnos