A Voyage Long and Strange : Rediscovering the New World
Tony Horwitz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist with a penchant for history. He also likes to re-examine all things American. Here he looks at the general population’s accepted facts about the founding of America and turns them upside down. The publishers have great hopes of this book and have launched an expensive PR campaign; I can see why. It’s well written, with a clear readable style and nice prose, by an intelligent man who thinks around things and ponders the quirks of humanity. His book will infuriate and inflame many as their “known history,” which was taught them in school, is shown to be merely myth.
Horwitz isn’t just a stirrer, though; he journeys along the trails the earliest American explorers made and researches, in depth, the many books and original documents about each man. He travels to Newfoundland to the Norse settlements, probably the earliest settlements in America; he traces Columbus to the Dominican Republic and then tramps across America from Mexico northwards following the early Spanish and French settlers. It seems it was not a case of “Go West” that opened up America, but of “Go East”! He is a history graduate himself, but knew little of this “lost century” until he researched it. Yet he is not unkind to all those cherished beliefs about the Pilgrim Fathers. “History is arbitrary, a collection of facts. Myth we choose, we create, we perpetrate.” And what a people choose and create is of as much interest as the real facts.
This has been one of my best non-fiction reads for a while; really thought- provoking.