Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Refugee Dreams

PB's essay "Refugee Dreams" is in GRANTA this month...

  • 28 March 2012
  • Essays & Memoir
  • Peter Behrens

        Refugee Dreams

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Road by Rob Hann

More highway images from the New York-based photographer Rob Hann.  All photographs are Rob Hann  ©2012 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The O'BRIENS Signed Firsts

                    "THE O'BRIENS is a major accomplishment" NYTBR 3/25/12

Signed first US editions of The O'Briens are still available at:
McNally Jackson Books   NYC
Politics and Prose  Washington DC
Marfa Book Co. Marfa TX

Signed Canadian Firsts at:
Blue Heron Books Uxbridge, ON
Abraxas Books, Denman Island BC 250-335-2731
Librairie Paragraph Bookstore Montreal

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Women and Wheels

These photographs are from Peter Cole's remarkable Women and Wheels collection. See more at his website, The Street of Gold.

"part of my joy in collecting photographs is to see what groups of similar themes form over time.  some images repeat so often as to be truly iconic, none more so than women photographed in front of cars. I find the repeated pairing fascinating: many human subjects seem posed by their proud partners, while others are more insistent on proudly posing themselves. Despite this play of subject and object, the snapshots are often as much portraits of the cars as of the women themselves."  ---P.C.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bonneville Photographs

Photography from the Bonneville Salt Flats; Marfa, Texas; and elsewhere courtesy of  New York-based photographer Rob Hann. All images ©Rob Hann 2012

GMC Trucks at the New York Times

There is a great slideshow of GMC trucks up at the New York Times Auto blog. 
Below: the Sierra Grande 15 we shipped from Marfa to Maine. I like buying trucks in West Texas. No rust issues. Shipping ends up being a lot cheaper than bodywork.

Our 1976 GMC Sierra Grande. Originally sold at Casner Motors, Marfa TX

                                                                                          Now living in Maine

Monday, March 19, 2012

PB on Weekend Edition, and the NYT Op-ed

Okay, that was a weekend. My interview with Jacki Lyden on NPR's Weekend Edition aired on Saturday morning 3/17/12. And my Op-ed piece ("It's About Immigration, Not Irishness") ran in the New York Times on the same day.  And I washed the truck.

The OBriens NPR
NPR coverage of The O'Briens by Peter Behrens. News, author interviews ... by Peter Behrens.The OBriens. Hardcover 384 pages Random House Inc List Price ...

OPINION   | March 17, 2012
Op-Ed Contributor:  It's About Immigrants, Not Irishness 
For many on this side of the Atlantic, St. Patrick's Day isn't about Ireland. It's about immigrants' struggle and success in their new lives. 

                                                                                                          Wild Rose Pass

"Bob Dylan"---50th anniversary of the album

Today being the 50th anniversary of the release of the Bobster's first album, "Bob Dylan", AL's  Halifax correspondent, the poet (and amateur ornithologist) Brian Bartlett, reminded us of the auto-oriented playlist from Bob's Theme Time Radio, Episode 12, "Cars"

Episode 12: Cars

First aired on July 19, 2006.
  1. Rocket 88 — Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats (1951)
  2. Cadillac Ranch — Bruce Springsteen (1980)
  3. Every Woman I Know (Crazy ‘Bout Automobiles) — Billy "The Kid" Emerson (1953)
  4. Me and My Chauffeur Blues — Memphis Minnie (1941)
  5. My Automobile — George Clinton & The Parliaments (1970)
  6. Christian’s Automobile — The Dixie Hummingbirds (1957)
  7. Car on a Hill — Joni Mitchell (1974)
  8. Pontiac commercial : Old McDonald — Frank Sinatra (19 ??)
  9. Pontiac Blues — Sonny Boy Williamson II (1950)
  10. Big Green Car — Jimmy Carroll (1958)
  11. Get out of the Car — Richard Berry (1955)
  12. Mercury Blues — David Lindley (1981)
  13. Too Many Drivers At The Wheel — Smiley Lewis (1955)
  14. Little Red Corvette — Prince (1983)
  15. No Money Down — Chuck Berry (1955)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Steve Earle, Emmylou, Jolie Holland, Wilf Carter, etc.

From our correspondent in the Prairie Provinces, Alex Emond:
"Happy Saint Patrick's Day. I took some shots of the too-small sub-section of my vinyl collection. Texas is the soul home of the drugstore truckdriving man and all things trucker, but I'm sure  there are some Canadian Gems out there too. Stompin' Tom, Hank Snow, Dutch Mason,Wilf Carter. The nation needs a Canadian Anthology of Trucker Tunes. Remember ... 'For every mile of road, there's two miles of ditch, eh?'" --AE
            Autoliterate Anthology of Road Tunes, Vol. 1: Most of these links are youtube performances. We should really organize a playlist on Spotify or some such, but this is beyond AL's tech know-how or patience, at present. 
             Should anyone feel up to organizing a playlist, autoliterate would be most grateful to receive the link: send it (and/or suggestions for additions to the list) to:

1. Pilgrim Steve Earle and Del McCoury Band, The Mountain
2. Thunder Road Bruce Springsteen
3. Brownsville Girl  Bob Dylan and Sam Shepard
4. I Wanna Die,  Jolie Holland
5. Terraplane, Robert Johnson
6. Wagon Wheel, Old Crow Medicine Show.
7. Western Highway, Maura O'Connell
8. Fisherman's Blues  The Waterboys
9. Waltz Across Texas  Emmylou Harris
10 Talk to Me of Mendocino   McGarrigles
11. Highway Kind Townes van Zandt
12. Return of the Grievous Angel  Lucinda Williams
13. Jackson  Lucinda Williams
14. I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)   Pretenders
15. L.A. Freeway Jerry Jeff Walker
17 Seven Bridges Road   Eagles
18 Guitar Town Emmylou Harris
19 Four Strong Winds  Neil Young
20 Urge for Going   Joni Mitchell

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My Brilliant Careerism, part 12

My novel THE O'BRIENS is now out in the US and various things are happening:

An interview on KRTS Marfa NPR ("Radio for a Wide Range") will broadcast on Friday March 16 at 10am Central Daylight Time (11am Eastern) and 630pm Central (7:30 Eastern). The podcast is already up at

I''ll be interviewed on NPR's Weekend Edition (with Jackie Lyden sitting in for Scott Simon) this Saturday March 17.

My op-ed piece (on immigration) will run in NEW YORK TIMES on Saturday March 17.

WASHINGTON POST review of The O'Briens scheduled for Saturday March 17

Pléaráca Leabhar for THE O'BRIENS at Marfa Book Co., Marfa TX Sat., March 17 6:00 pm. And that means book party.

NYTBR review of The O'Briens scheduled Sunday March 25.

THE O'BRIENS ad will run in NYTBR on Sunday March 18.

And if you'd like to hear some of the music that inspired the novel: 

Peter Behrens's Largehearted Boy Book Notes Playlist for The O ...
Peter Behrens's Largehearted Boy Book Notes Playlist for The O'Briens, a playlist by largeheartedboy on Spotify.

                                                       1 copy left at Bookcourt 
Maine, NYC, Vermont, California, and New Brunswick events are coming up in April. Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Toronto in May.  THE O'BRIENS book tour schedule is up here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Beautiful Boats in Maine

Nautical photographer Alison Langley, famous for pictures of boats, owns this 1973 Buick Electra, one of the largest cars in the great State of Maine.
            And Isla Miller found this c. 1939 Dodge truck at work in the Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, Maine. The same vintage as the Dodge that Alex Emond turned up last month in Saskatchewan.

Monday, March 12, 2012

First Aid Kit, "Emmylou" & an Advanced Design Chevrolet

This from our correspondent in the Prairie provinces, the painter Alex Emond:

         "Saw this Chevrolet just off the highway in Dunmore, Alberta, fifteen minutes east of Medicine Hat. One can only imagine the reasons for painting the grill, etc. the same colour as your wife's toenails. Some combination of alcohol and an extra Y chromosome.
Still, it's not in bad shape; and paint can be changed. It looks a lot like your old ride
          "If you are in the mood for a Swedish sister act--and who isn't--check out the group "First Aid Kit" and watch/listen to "Emmylou" on yer Youtube .  
Remarkable harmony and a refreshing absence of vanity. It's a fine song." --AE

Friday, March 9, 2012

Jim Christy & a 1939 Plymouth

                                                           1939 Plymouth Road King, uncomposted.


I wanted to see old broke cars.
Especially round ones like Edwardian 
Sofas, with side-view mirrors
Dangling like arthritic hands.
There I am at four,
Excited in the back seat. Parents
In front, pleased their kid
Needs no amusement parks, 
Ice cream cones. The 1939
Plymouth long landfill under Philadelphia
Airport runway. Parents long ashes, both.
Me, awed, laughing, pointing
At comic Studebakers like camels
Resting on their axles, rusted, broken-
Tooth grilles grinning back.
A Kaiser-Fraser with one sun visor
Turned down like a man who'd 
Shaved off an eyebrow.
Old broke cars with running boards
For the little tramp to jump upon
And steal a ride, and him and it
To ass-and-tea kettle clatter
Down the long road
From there
To here.
                               ---Jim Christy, 
                                   from his collection Marimba Forever, published by Guernica Editions, 2010.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Elizabeth Bishop "Filling Station"

                                                                                              ©2012 Becky Smith

The Elizabeth Bishop poem, with an editorial note from Brian Bartlett, AL's Halifax correspondent:

          "Peter, Now that Autoliterate has posted Mathew Dickman's "Gas Station," the natural follow-up would be Elizabeth Bishop's wry poem below, originally from her collection Questions of Travel (Farrar, Straus & Gieroux, 1965). The filling station that inspired the poem in Great Village, NS, has been replaced by an Irving one"--BB

         And check this link to the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia"--PB

Filling Station
Oh, but it is dirty!
-- this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!

Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms,
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him
(it's a family filling station),
all quite thoroughly dirty.

Do they live in the station?
It has a cement porch
behind the pumps, and on it
a set of crushed and grease-
impregnated wickerwork;
on the wicker sofa
a dirty dog, quite comfy.

Some comic books provide
the only note of color --
of certain color. They lie
upon a big dim doily
draping a taboret
(part of the set), beside
a big hirsute begonia.

Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret? 
Why, oh why, the doily?
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think,
and heavy with gray crochet.)

Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant,
or oils it, maybe. Somebody
arranges the rows of cans
so that they softly say:
to high-strung automobiles.
Somebody loves us all.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Matthew Dickman Poem

-                                       from Jeff Brouws, "Highway Series"


There’s no telling what the night will bring
but the moon. That’s a no brainer.
A no brainer moon sitting there at its desk,
wishing it was outside
on the play ground with little Rebecca Steinberg,
her hair came down around her shoulders
like streamers on new year’s eve.
The night is going to be a very long night
and I am walking into it
with my sleeves rolled up,
my cap on tight,
all my worthwhileness stuffed into my back pocket
like a wallet full of transcendental credit.
The bullshit elegance of shadows
and the moon like the inside of a jawbreaker
after all the color has been licked off,
all that sweet dye and sugar,
layer by layer
until only the soul of the thing is left, the hard center
that will choke you to death
if you’re not careful. Which I wasn’t
the summer I turned fourteen.
Anton and I had cornered a younger kid
behind the 7-11 who was fat and walking with his little sister.
We screamed at him
say you’re fat! Say it, say you’re fat.
And he did, he said it, he cried and said it
and whatever strength he had
as an older brother, as someone
his sister looked up to from behind her big blue eyes,
caught fire between us
and went out like a match.
Well, I lived and he lived
and Anton lived for twelve more years
but we killed something,
we dug a hole and buried it,
and later that night I was walking past the Chevron gas station
on 92nd and Foster,
next to the 92nd Street Club Dancers,
and this guy came out swinging
a gun, his face like an apartment
that no one had lived in for years,
the gun pointing just above my head when it went off,
the moon exploding
and the wind picking up all the pieces
like a mother picking up all the dirty clothes
in a house full of children
who never listened  to a word she said.
                                                             -Matthew Dickman


Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Brilliant Careerism, part 11

My new novel, THE O'BRIENS launches in the US this Tuesday, March 6, with a Pléaráca Leabhar at the Irish Arts Center, Hells Kitchen, NYC. 730pm . And that means book party.  Ticket info here.

I was profiled in the New York Times this week. You can find that here.

On Thursday March 8  I'll be talking and reading at one of my favourite bookstores, Politics & Prose in Washington DC. That event will be at 7:00pm. Info here.

And on St Patrick's Day, Saturday March 17, at 6:00pm I'll be talking (about varieties of Irishness) and reading from THE O'BRIENS at Marfa Book Co., in Marfa Texas.

More events coming up in April and May in New England, New Brunswick, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Toronto. The events list is up on my website.

At some of the  events I plan to show a few slides from my O'Brien family archive.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More "Advanced Design" Chevy Trucks

From Jim Graham in California: 
"Jim Graham here with Desert Dingo Racing - My wife Roxanne turned me on to your blog and suggested I send along a photo of the truck we use as our race car hauler. It's owned by Dennis "Crusty" Lange and runs like a champ. I drove it from Felton, Calif. to Gerlach, Nev., then to Fallon, Nev. and back to Felton (875 mile roundtrip) and the only issue was the driver side window fell out.

Crusty's putting power steering in it now (I looked like Popeye after the trip) and we'll be replacing the plywood on the deck, but otherwise no changes. Crusty was considering painting it and we collectively yelled "ZOMG! NO!" so it will keep the patina..."--J.G.

note: Autoliterate has a thing for GM's "Advanced Design"  series of 1947-55 trucks. One of the reasons is that my first trip to West Texas was in a 1952 Chevrolet 1-ton, all the way from Banff Alberta, down the Rocky Mountain front. Blue highways all the way, as we couldn't quite work up to interstate speed.

GM Advanced Design

Okay, I think the GM "Advanced Design Series" of trucks, which ran from 1947-55, are about as beautiful as a truck gets. BB caught this one in Santa Barbara. I learned to drive (Ste-Marguerite Station, Quebec; summer of '67) on a 1953 A-D Chevrolet truck with Montana plates and a suicide knob.

F100 needs a home

From Alex Emond, our south Saskatchewan (and Banff) correspondent. "The house with all the trucks around it is on the edge of Swift Current. Obviously the guy has a problem with old pickup trucks. Usually some of them have "For Sale" signs on them....I might have to meet the dude and ask if I can take more pictures. These are only the trucks that are visible from the far end of his driveway. Who knows what lurks in the back yard? Or in the shop ? I'll bet he's got trucks in the basement."  
. F2