Shadowy Monticello

Works by John Lesage


A Country without Memory

List of places visited
List of topics discussed
About the writer
Get the book

Other short works

Maryhill and Celilo
Ewing Young & Champoeg
Ghost Mountain

More photography

Death Valley
The Cascades

2011 John Lesage


        Blurb for the Book

We’ve gone through the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment. It didn’t stick. Now we’re in the Information Age, but it seems more like Gutenberg on speed. We can do better.
       As a project, A Country without Memory began on a winter road trip in 2007. Lesage spent a month driving from Seattle to the East Coast, seeking sites of historical significance. He selected places such as those related to John Brown, Jefferson and Thoreau, noting that history is most often distorted in the realm of racial relations. He uncovers some little known history, and brings a poetic sensibility to historical insight.
        As a book, A Country without Memory is now a literary-historical travelogue of some 270 pages.

From Chapter 7:

It’s easy to remain on the surface of things. Significance lurks out of sight, a little deeper. . . . Florida swarms with alligators, yet I went swimming there — in daylight, in clear-water springs. In Florida, one doesn’t swim in a black-water river at night. In much of America, waters are muddy, opaque. Every place I visit has a hidden story, lurking in the depths. I find some of them. We remain ignorant at our peril, because some of these stories will bite.

Lesage presents history non-sequentially, in the order he encountered stories on the road. With this geographic presentation, he often brings stories to life by setting them on a landscape. Lesage analyzes a broad spectrum of history in asking what it means to be American. In examining the roots of racism and war, he fosters an understanding of how highly propagandized history has become.
        Knowing Lincoln's advice, Lesage returns to Seattle with a better understanding of “where we are and whither we are tending,” arriving with a better idea of “what to do and how to do it.” Lesage improved his skills in evaluating the quality and significance of historical details — skills needed in a possible transformation of the Information Age into something better.