Wang Yuxi

Overall Rating: 5
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Author: Wang Yuxi (王羽熙)
Title: From West Coast To East Coast (西海岸油门,东海岸刹车:18天横穿美国)
Time: 2011
Destination: USA
Length: 18+ days
Type: road trip

From the zoo to the museum

[Note: this book is not out in English yet.]

The story: WYX is a young visual artist from Beijing who dreams of crossing the United States by car. Classic road trip material. He overcomes a few initial visa difficulties and gets two buddies to come along. They make the drive from Los Angeles to New York and back, effectively crossing the US two times. They sleep in motels or at Chinese friends’ places. They visit museums and they go to the zoo. Sometimes they go shopping. The journey takes them eighteen days.

Wang Yuxi’s awesome drawings

The book consists of both text and hand-drawn illustrations. And how I loved the drawings! They seemed so smart and unconventional, and while I was reading, I often found myself waiting for the next illustration to look at. This wasn’t entirely because of their visual quality though. It was also because the text was a bit boring.
WYX’s writing is actually okay. He makes some nice observations here and there, and I enjoyed some of the metaphors he applied – most of them were rather visual. But the story just wasn’t that exciting to begin with.

if you’re a tourist, write about it

Judging from the travel books I have read so far, you don’t really have to do anything out of the ordinary in order to write a decent book. You just have to be able to tell a story. About yourself. About the world around you. About the things that you are doing. If you are a tourist, write about what it feels like to be a tourist. Write about other tourists. Write about the drama of tourism! Don’t just tell me you went to the zoo.
Now in this case, WYX tells us about every single meal he has had along the way and I am beginning to think: could this particular obsession with food be a problem of Chinese travel writing in general? He also tells us about his trips to the zoo (too many trips to too many zoos actually), and he muses about the different tourist attractions he visits along the way. There is some interaction with the world around him, but it’s not much, not even with the dudes who are in the same car with him.
And this is precisely the problem.

less food, more people

What would have helped this book? I think WYX should have told us more about the interactions between him and his mates. Were there any arguments among them, or were they really only physically present? 18 days can be a short time or a long time, depending on your own perception.
Should the trip have been longer? Arguably, yes. But I think that WYX could have made do with what he had, if he had only conveyed a certain feeling of hurriedness, turning this book into something along the lines of “Cannonball Run” – this could have been interesting!
Also, one could argue that WYX and his guys are alienating themselves from the world around them by only staying with Chinese friends, but again, this could have been interesting as well, had WYX taken more time to introduce us to his hosts. What’s their connection to this story? How do they feel about their lives in the USA?

I think WYX could have turned this into a better book. His writing is okay and his drawings are awesome. Now he needs to apply them better!

A 5/10.

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