A Dead-End Journey

By Colby Buzzell Harper. 291 pp. $24.99

‘Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey’ by Colby Buzzell (Harper)

After serving as an Army infantryman in Iraq, Colby Buzzell got his discharge papers and wrote a popular memoir about the war. In the beginning of his second book, “Lost in America” Buzzell recounts what happened to him since. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He contemplated suicide. His mother died from cancer. He had his first child.

Inspired by his favorite book, “On The Road,” Buzzell decides to clear his head and do “the whole Kerouac thing” by driving across America. Along the way, he works part-time jobs and explores America’s underbelly. He drives an ice-cream truck in Salt Lake City. He works the delivery dock for the Salvation Army in Des Moines. In Detroit, he photographs two men who forage for scrap metal in abandoned buildings.

Most of the time, however, Buzzell drinks excessively, uses four-letter words profusely and smokes innumerable packs of cigarettes. One chapter ends: “I spent my last days in Omaha a drunken mess in my room.” It’s not a revealing sentence, but then author rarely explains anything in this book. “Why was I at a strip club?” he writes. “I was on the road, that’s why. Duh.”

Buzzell’s wanderlust is extinguished in Detroit when his car breaks down. The book ends a few pages later with him sitting in an airplane seat and declining a flight attendant’s drink offer. Is he reforming his ways? Becoming a new Buzzell? Typically, he never says.

T. Rees Shapiro