Idiot Wind by Peter Kaldheim
Peter Kaldheim's honesty and optimistic persistence in every circumstance make for a powerful and compelling narrative
On paper, Peter Kaldheim appears to be the perfect measure of success: a Dartmouth graduate, editor at a prestigious academic publisher, happily married and has no end of friends. But, as his spiralling cocaine addiction wears away the façade, he loses it all. Selling drugs in the local bars gets him by until he ends up owing his dealer a lot of money and must go on the run. But he can’t run away from his addiction or past, and while tramping on the roads, must come to terms with his mistakes, all the while seeking personal redemption.
Kaldheim’s subsequent wanderings reveal the disheartening circumstances of the vagrant community in America. Of people let down by their government who must rely on food stamps, money from blood donations, and flop houses. Yet, ever the optimist, Kaldheim hopes that his uncertain journey may provide some 'Kerouacian adventures' and thinks 'there might even be a book in it.'
Idiot Wind is that book, served 30 years later. Kaldheim’s time on the road is littered with literary musings and, while there are no poetics in Kaldheim’s writing itself, his honesty and optimistic persistence in each circumstance make for a powerful and compelling narrative. Overall, Idiot Wind provides a unique and important insight into homelessness in the US and is engaging from start to finish.
Canongate, 1 Aug, £14.99
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