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William Least Heat-Moon (2008)

William Least Heat-Moon, byname of William Lewis Trogdon (born August 27, 1939) is an American travel writer of English, Irish and Osage Nation ancestry. He is the author of a bestselling trilogy of topographical U.S. travel writing.



His pen name came from his father saying, "I call myself Heat Moon, your elder brother is Little Heat Moon. You, coming last, therefore, are Least." Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Least Heat Moon attended the University of Missouri where he joined Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He earned bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. degrees in English, as well as a bachelor's degree in photojournalism. He also served as a professor of English at the university.


Blue Highways, which spent 34 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list in 1982-83, is a chronicle of a three-month-long road trip that Least Heat Moon took throughout the United States in 1978 after losing his teaching job and being left by his first wife. He traveled 13,000 miles, as much as possible on secondary roads (often drawn on maps in blue, especially in the old-style Rand McNally road atlas) and tried to avoid cities. Living out of the back of his van "Ghost Dancing", he visited small towns such as Nameless, Tennessee; Hachita, New Mexico; and Bagley, Minnesota to find places in America untouched by fast food chains and interstate highways. The book chronicles the people he talked to in roadside cafés as well as his personal soul-searching.

PrairyErth is a deep map account of the history and people of Chase County, Kansas.

River Horse is an account of a four-month coast-to-coast boat trip across the U.S., using the nation's waterways almost exclusively. It explores Least Heat Moon's continuing observation of American culture. River Horse details Least Heat Moon's retracing of Lewis and Clark's frontier exploration in a nation at the end of the twentieth century. River Horse is informed by the search that the writer began with Blue Highways: for an America stripped of the commercial fog and tabloid mentality that often masks the great strengths of her people.

In addition to the trilogy, Least Heat Moon also wrote Columbus in the Americas (2002), a brief history of Christopher Columbus' journeys and Roads to Quoz (2008). The latter is another "road book" like his former trilogy, but it differs in the sense that it is "not one long road trip, but a series of shorter ones"[1] over the years between books. Robert Sullivan of the New York Times Book Review commented that Least Heat Moon had "gone from what feels like a lover of the road to a love-hate of it, or at least an impatience with aspects that are unavoidable."[1]


  • Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. Fawcett, 1982. ISBN 0-449-21109-6
  • The Red Couch: A Portrait of America. With Kevin Clarke and Horst Wackerbarth. Olympic Marketing Corp, 1984. ISBN 0-912383-05-4
  • A Glass of Handmade. The Atlantic, November 1987.
  • PrairyErth (A Deep Map): An Epic History of the Tallgrass Prairie Country. Houghton Mifflin, 1991. ISBN 0-395-48602-5
  • River Horse: The Logbook of a Boat Across America. Houghton Mifflin, 1999. ISBN 0-395-63626-4
  • Columbus in the Americas (Turning Points in History). Wiley, 2002. ISBN 0-471-21189-3
  • Roads to Quoz: An American Mosey. Little, Brown and Company, October 2008, ISBN 9780316110259


  1. ^ a b Sullivan, Robert (December 14, 2008), "On the Road Again, Again", New York Times Book Review: 8  

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Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

William Least Heat-Moon is an American author.


Blue Highways (1982)

  • In a land of quince jelly, apple butter, apricot jam, blueberry preserves, pear conserves, and lemon marmalade, you always get grape jelly.
    • Part One, Chapter 14
  • What is it in man that for a long while lies unknown and unseen only one day to emerge and push him into a new land of the eye, a new region of the mind, a place he has never dreamed of? Maybe it's like the force in spores lying quietly under asphalt until the day they push a soft, bulbous mushroom head right through the pavement. There's nothing you can do to stop it.
    • Part Four, Chapter 12
  • At any particular moment in a man's life, he can say that everything he has done and not done, that has been done and not been done to him, has brought him to that moment. If he's being installed as Chieftain or receiving a Nobel Prize, that's a fulfilling notion. But if he's in a sleeping bag at ten thousand feet in a snowstorm, parked in the middle of a highway and waiting to freeze to death, the idea can make him feel calamitously stupid.
    • Part Five, Chapter 3
  • Other than to amuse himself, why should a man pretend to know where he's going or understand what he sees?
    • Part Five, Chapter 6
  • Instead of insight, maybe all a man gets is strength to wander for a while. Maybe the only gift is a chance to inquire, to know nothing for certain. An inheritance of wonder and nothing more.
    • Part Six, Chapter 9
  • Boredom lies only with the traveler's limited perception and his failure to explore deeply enough. After a while, I found my perception limited.
    • Part Seven, Chapter 7
  • I can't say, over the miles, that I had learned what I had wanted to know because I hadn't known what I wanted to know. But I did learn what I didn't know I wanted to know.
    • Part Ten, Chapter 4

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