Recently, on my own book tour, I happened to ask a sales guy at Shaman Drum Books in Ann Arbor if he could help me. I was an English grad student, I said; I was trying to draw up a syllabus for a course I hoped to teach in a year or two, on the American Road Novel. I'd come up with a handful of obvious titles--ON THE ROAD, ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTAINANCE, LOLITA, TRAVELS WITH CHARLIE, even THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. But all of them were by white guys, and I was looking for the rest of the picture. Was there, I asked him, a literary equivalent to "Thelma and Louise"? He handed me FLAMING IGUANAS. "Here," he said.
A woman on a motorcycle takes on America.
This is a great book. Erika, I am in love. It is an infectuous, cheerful, honest, ragingly sexy--but never prurient--book. It is very much within the tradition (Kerouac, Henry Miller, and several other sex-and-road dudes are mentioned explicitly, as sort-of precursors; Erica Jong's FEAR OF FLYING is a good point of comparison, too), but it also extends the tradition, and gloriously so. At moments Lopez makes the confessional-thing look so effortless you're tempted to try it yourself, but such ruthless self-exposure, no matter how fictionalized, is its own stringent discipline.
This is a soaring, liberating read. Week 12 on the twelve-week American Road Novel syllabus, without a doubt. Some undergrads may be scandalized; WILL be scandalized. Too bad. Erika, I love you. I tell all my friends in the Princeton English Department about you. I am a one-man word-of-mouth machine, spreading the gospel. You are too much. Exuberance is beauty. Don't stop!