Bodies in motion

Scott Carrier's best stories feel like true-life Kerouac classics.

… His desire to keep moving might be one way to flee from the responsibilities of the culture he documents.

Scott Carrier could have stepped right out of a Beat-generation novel. His public-radio accounts of hitchhiking across the nation, challenging authority figures, and communing with the wilderness have the feel of a true-life Kerouac classic. Running After Antelope, a wonderful collection of some of Carrier's best radio and magazine work from the past two decades, is a testament to the author's extraordinary storytelling prowess and a celebration of life in the margins of the modern world.

In 1982, Carrier's brother, a doctoral student in biology, theorized that human beings evolved into two-legged endurance runners to hunt large prey by running them to the point of exhaustion. Carrier was captivated by this notion and began a 15-year quest to chase down a pronghorn antelope himself. This pursuit provides a running theme for this collection chronicling his adventures in America and abroad.

Whether he's chasing antelope or assignments, Carrier stays in constant motion. His desire to keep moving and his ability to navigate one absurd situation after the next gives him a confident voice in the face of adversity. In Kansas City, Mo., he's producing a radio story on how a community lowered its crime rate by hosting a midnight basketball program when the bag containing his recorded interviews is stolen. (Not recognizing the irony in the situation, his bosses force him to re-interview his subjects without acknowledging the theft.) And in Utah, Carrier is interviewing schizophrenics when he realizes that his troubled home life is on par with the problems of his subjects. The personal accounts in many of Carrier's essays provide additional weight to the tales and hint that his desire to keep moving might be one way to flee from the responsibilities of the culture he documents.

While the first half of this collection examines the author's personal conflicts, the second focuses on the struggles of people living in Cambodia, Kashmir, and Mexico. The accounts of life in nations scarred by internal warfare demonstrate Carrier's strengths as a foreign correspondent. Regardless of where he is writing from, he remains interested in engaging the people he meets rather than the politics that surround them.

The rare nature of Carrier's work is reinforced by the postscript to his piece on the Zapatista rebels in Mexico. The men's magazine that commissioned the article replaced it with a fashion spread of male models dressed in military garb — just the type of callous commercialism that might drive one to forsake the conveniences of modern life and chase after antelope.

Frank Diller writes for the City Paper, where this review first appeared.

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