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SUNY Press to publish Nelson's book on Rt. 20
Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dr. Malcolm Nelson
loves "the road."

Distinguished Teaching Professor of English Malcolm Nelson is currently working on an anecdotal study of the longest highway in the United States. It is this road, U.S. 20, which he takes to work every day, and indeed, offers him an exceptionally personal vista of human traffic going east or west as it passes by the front door of his home in Brocton, N.Y.

SUNY Press has elected to publish Dr. Nelson’s book, Twenty West: The Great Road Across America, next year.

Stretching over 3,365 miles from Boston, Mass. to Newport, Ore. (and right through Fredonia), US 20 is the longest road in America.

Dr. Nelson is creating a fascinating narrative of the history of US 20 and intertwining it with the story of American transportation itself. Add to that tales from its cities, towns, and villages, peppered with famous people, places and legends, and the story of US 20 gets richer and richer.  A great traveler of American highways, Dr. Nelson will also blend in colorful observations from his own experiences.

“The book’s tone is usually serious, often comic, but not scholarly,” Dr. Nelson noted. “It is personal – I live and work on US 20 – and idiosyncratic. It touches on history, literature, scenery, geology, politics, travel, whatever the most interesting aspects of the area may be.”

Map of U.S. showing Rte. 20
coast to coast.

Some of the topics in Twenty West: The Great Road Across America will include a popular history on the creation of new religions in New York State in the 19th century, the westward migration of population and power from the East Coast to the Midwest and western United States, stories of Native Americans like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, a look at Yellowstone National Park and ruminations on the importance of wilderness.

“(The book) doesn’t fit into any category,” Dr. Nelson commented. “I think of that as strength, not a weakness…I imagine its primary audience to be all literate Americans, particularly those interested in American history, land, travel, culture and literature. There is no competing topic on the book.”

Dr. Nelson has served as a member of the SUNY Fredonia Department of English faculty since 1968. He is a past recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and has earned the SUNY title of Distinguished Teaching Professor. Dr. Nelson is the author of “Epitaph and Icon: A Field Guide to the Old Burying of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket” (Parnassus Imprints, 1983), “The Robin Hood Tradition in the English Renaissance” (University of Salzburg Press, 1974) and “A Collection of Catches, Canons and Glees, 1763-1974” (Irish University Press, 1970) and has written, edited and co-edited numerous scholarly works.

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