The scale is the thing. As you drive across America “vast” is the word that comes to mind. The Mississippi river, the plains of Nebraska, The Badlands of South Dakota, the soaring Rocky Mountains, the sheer splendour and magnificence of Yellowstone, the emptiness of Montana. If America was a piece of writing it would be a 3-decker novel, with England being a short story. This is not a quality judgement, simply that you can’t compare them. They have nothing in common (not even the language).
For example, we had dinner with Juanita in Gardiner, Montana (after she had taken us to see our first Rodeo). She has a 3 hour drive to a town where she can buy her main groceries. And we thought we were struggling because our nearest Waitrose is 20 miles away.
America close up is better than America from a distance. Individually most of the Americans we have met have been delightful and seem genuinely pleased that we are taking the time to drive right across their country. Another thing that has impressed us is the number of bookshops we have found – many of them in smallish towns – good, quality bookshops where the owner knows about their stock and books in general.
Most supermarkets also have racks of books which once I would have described rather unkindly as “airport reading”. I have revised this view. I may not want to read stuff about nurses swooning into the arms of a young surgeon and some pseudo superhero defeating aliens from outer space, but if they give people pleasure and encourage them to read, who am I to criticise?
My dear friend and producer of many of my plays, the late Glyn Dearman, used to have a sign on his office wall which said “Imagination is the only exact science.”
Imagination is a great gift and it will appear in different forms but let it flourish, say I. Whether you exercise it or experience it, it is critical to the mental well-being of us all.