Picks and Pans Review: Journey to Nowhere

updated 04/08/1985 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/08/1985 01:00AM

by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson

First inspired by an assignment from the Sacramento Bee, where Maharidge is a reporter and Williamson a photographer, the two men ended up traveling all over the country investigating the lives of the homeless and unemployed. Many of the people they talked to were part of the "technologically unemployed"—those whose skills had been phased out. Others had few skills to begin with or were not interested in employing those they had. The result is a book that evokes memories of the 1930s Work Projects Administration volumes that chronicled life in the Depression. Maharidge's text is unfocused, ranging from what seems to be a how-to guide for anyone wanting to steal free transportation from the railroads to subtle, pointed dialogues with people whose lives have simply disintegrated. He also overwrites painfully: "A wolf pack of mosquitoes rises from the marsh and marches upon the world," he says, describing the campground home of a couple who had moved from Michigan to Texas seeking work. The black-and-white photographs by Williamson are much more to the point. His pictures of abandoned factories, ramshackle housing and despairing people whose only job is survival are often chillingly moving. The country's general prosperity makes the book a less sweeping indictment than its creators may have had in mind; still, it produces a sobering number of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I tremors. (Dial, paper, $15.95)

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