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University of Iowa News Release

May 19, 2006

Wald Recounts Hitchhiking In June 2 'Live From Prairie Lights' Reading

Folk musician and author Elijah Wald, who is on a national hitchhiking tour to promote his new book, "Riding With Strangers," will stop in Iowa City for a reading at 7 p.m. Friday, June 2, on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on UI radio station WSUI, AM 910. The reading will originate in a free event hosted by Julie Englander in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

"This is my first non-music book and follows a cross-country trip I made about a year ago from Boston to Portland," Wald says. "The point of this journey, aside from having fun and trying to give a sense of modern life on the road, was to counteract the paranoia that is all around us and remind readers that the world remains a far safer and friendlier place than one would think from reading the newspapers or watching the nightly news.

"As it follows my trip, the book includes musings on cops and evangelists, a tribute to Mark Twain, a history of hitchhiking, some discussion of the fine points of the art and a survey of what is currently available at Midwestern truck stops. Also conversations with the various drivers who stopped for me, and an update on the state of the American highway."

In response to the book, Utah Phillips wrote, "Elijah Wald sums up a life spent walking backwards. A lot of people have tried to write books about hitchhiking, but none of them worked. This one does."

A Library Journal review declared the book, "Highly recommended for outstanding travel writing and a unique look at the modern America that most of us barely glance in our rearview mirrors as we whiz along at 70 miles per hour."

And David Pitt wrote for Booklist, "This agreeable memoir of cross-country adventures is full of good times: the friendly people he's met, the lessons he's learned, the unique relationship that exists between driver and passenger. For readers who automatically associate hitchhiking with jeopardy, the book will be an eye-opener; and for lovers of the open road, it's simply a delight."

Wald has published six books, both alone and with various co-writers, including "Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues;" "Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas;" and "River of Song: A Musical Journey Along the Mississippi."

For more than a decade he was the "world music" writer for the Boston Globe, and he won a Grammy Award for his liner notes to the Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Box, the 2001 Best Performing Arts Book award from the Independent Publishers association and Best Arts Book at the 2002 Latino Book Awards.

Before he began writing, he toured as a guitarist and singer, spending about eight years in Europe, Asia, Africa and Central America, fronting a blues band in Sevilla, a swing duo in Antwerp and a rock band at the Grand Hotel in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,