The Road Trip That Changed the World – Book Review

Why is it that on some road trips, time slows down and you think you’ll never ever arrive, and on others you seem to blink and you’re already there? Perhaps it’s the company you have. Reading is like that for me, and I’m happy to say that I just blinked and arrived at the end of Mark Sayers’ new book The Road Trip That Changed the World.

And thanks to Mark, one lucky sacred agent will win a free copy of his book. Read on…

Sayers is a brilliant cultural exegete – one who effectively explains our culture to us. Just like when you listen to a preacher who is skilled in exegesis, you have a lot of “Aha!” light-bulb moments, when you see clearly things that are so obviously right in front of you but you’d somehow missed before.

This is a short but important book that’s worth your time. You will come away with a clearer window into our culture, and that is gold to any sacred agent. To describe our own culture takes real skill and clever tricks. It’s not sufficient to simply hold up a mirror to ourselves – all we will see is more of what we already see. So it is with the increasing amount of data and statistics we consume. They’re useful, they tell us what’s happening. But they don’t tell us why.

You won’t see charts and stats on the pages of Road Trip. It reads more like poetry, actually. Sayers weaves story and insight and personal experiences in a way that combines deep and thorough research with remarkable leaps of intuition. Very occasionally his insights seemed a long bow to draw. On the whole, however, he is on the money.

His apparent thesis – that one novel by one author 60 years ago has steadily ruined us – is, he openly admits, an over-simplification. But this is the trick of the exegete: He uses it as a very effective lens to focus us on not merely a snap-shot of our culture, but a trajectory – to makes sense not only of where we are, but how we got here. And that is more than convincing.

Anyone who tries to paint a picture must choose a point of perspective. This is a further key value of the book. Sayers unashamedly writes about Western culture from the perspective of mature Christian discipleship. This meant quite a lot of mental ‘Yay!’s from this sacred agent as I read along, and some moments too to pause and re-evaluate my own journey.

Thank you Mark Sayers for a significant and timely book.

Now about winning that free copy: Let’s practice some cultural exegesis, amateurs though we be. To enter, leave a comment on this post, naming a single book, movie or historical event that you think has influenced Australian culture. And, briefly, what that influence has been. It doesn’t have to be amazing – it’s just practice! The winner will be chosen at random on July 16th from those (any!) who simply have had a go.

Otherwise, it’s currently $10+postage at Amazon, $15 at Koorong, or $14 at Book Depository

Posted on July 4, 2012, in Books, Culture. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. andrewiturner

    Here’s an example: “The advent of the AFL has influenced SA culture in that it has decreased the significance of our “state” identity a bit and made us a bit more tribal.”

  2. I think one of the examples that stands out for me was Nicky Winmar making a stand against racism when he lifted up his shirt to show the opposition supporters his dark skin as a response to their continual taunts and offensive remarks from beyond the boundary line. I know for me as a young boy at the time, that image really became stuck in my mind and challenged me to view all people equally and with respect. It showed me the importance of taking pride in who you are and being true to yourself no matter what.

    Whilst this event did not single-handedly remove racism from sport, it was a symbolic gesture that paved the way for other Aboriginal players and people of other nationalities to make a stand for respect and equality. From that one event in time, racism was brought from darkness into the light and thrust into the faces of members of the general public, where it could no longer be downplayed or ignored. This event – I personally believe – has had more impact than any other on a sporting field and has influenced Australian culture greatly.

    • andrewiturner

      Thanks Joel!
      You’ve won the copy of Mark Sayers’ book!
      Please contact me (aturner@sabaptist.asn.au) to let me know how I can get it to you.
      Peace

  3. The first thing I thought of (after the landing of the First Fleet in Aus – for better or worse) was the winning of the Americas Cup in 1983. Suddenly the little Aussie Battler / Underdog had beaten the mighty American king of the seas with a little bit of thinking outside the box and a whole lot of guys believing in themselves with nothing to lose.

  4. I just want to say ‘The Castle’. Great Australian cultural documentary. I would have to agree with Bill Bryson in that the invention of the home appliance has made a huge impact on our culture. Time saving appliances that result in us having to work harder/longer in order to afford the appliances. Both partners having to work to afford an ‘average’ life, with ‘average’ car etc…

  5. andrewiturner

    Thanks Murray. For me, I think you’ve helped clarify something. There are different kinds of books/movies/events. On the one hand, there are those which *reflect* our culture, often in an extreme form for parody. I think The Castle is one of these. They’re still culturally important as they help us see what we’re like. Then there are books/movies/events that *shift* or shape our culture. At the time they are counter-culture, but culture then moves to adopt them as its own, or to follow them. And the 2nd one you name – advent of appliances – was out-of-the-box at first but then has strongly shaped us.
    The Beats – that Sayers writes about – were a classic example of the latter too.

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