Professor Douglas Brinkley arranged to teach a six-week experimental class aboard a fully equipped sleeper bus. The class would visit thirty states and ten national parks. They would read twelve books by great American writers. They would see Bob Dylan in Seattle, gamble at a Vegas casino, dance to Bourbon Street jazz in New Orleans, pay homage to Elvis Presley’s Graceland and William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, ride the whitewater rapids on the Rio Grande, and experience a California earthquake. Their journey took them to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield, Harry Truman’s Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt’s North Dakota badlands. And it gave them the unforgettable experience of meeting some of their cultural heroes, including William S. Burroughs and Ken Kesey, who took the gang for a spin in his own psychedelic bus. Driven by Doug Brinkley’s energetic prose, The Majic Bus is a spirited travelogue of a unique experience.
What happens when a young history professor and a philosopher-trucker with a custom-fitted “Majic Bus” take seventeen undergraduates across America in a learning-adventure-on-wheels. The Majic Bus recounts the maiden voyage of Hofstra University’s traveling course, “An American Odyssey: Art and Culture Across America.” At the prompting of students who were restless in the class-room and eager to learn about America by seeing and doing, Professor Douglas Brinkley arranged to teach a six-week experimental class aboard a sleeper bus, equipped with beds, a stereo — even a shower.
The class would visit thirty states and ten national parks. They would read twelve books by great American writers. They would see Bob Dylan in Seattle, gamble in a Vegas casino, dance to Bourbon Street Jazz in New Orleans, pay homage to Elvis Presley’s Graceland and William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, meditate at the Buddhist college in Colorado, brand cattle in South Dakota, hike in the Rockies, ride the white water rapids on the Rio Grande, and get all shook up in a California quake.
Their journey took them to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Jimmy Carter’s Atlanta, Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield, Harry Truman’s Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt’s North Dakota Badlands. It gave them the unforgettable experience of meeting some of their cultural heroes: William S. Burroughs in Kansas, and Ken Kesey in Oregon, where he took the gang for a spin in his psychedelic bus, “Further.”
From state to state, Professor Brinkley’s roving classroom generated tremendous media attention. Back at the university, letters poured in from students and educators alike, asking how they could create or participate in such a course. The Majic Bus is a first-person account of this unique learning expedition, driven by Doug Brinkley’s energetic prose; punctuated by telling references and quotable quotes; moving to the sounds of blues, jazz, oldies, and grunge: illustrated by over sixty student photographs.
It is a history of America’s past, a history-in-the-making; an offbeat travelogue, a blueprint for alternative teaching, and a pop cultural tour de force; a tribute to the way of the Beats and the ideals of the Kennedys, and, in the words of historian Stephen Ambrose, “a veritable love song to America.”
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Praise for Majic Bus:
“The Majic Bus has such vitality, force, and power that it left me breathless, wishing I could be a student again, a member of Doug Brinkley’s class, a party to this incredible journey into America’s past.” — Doris Kearns Goodwin
“The Majic Bus rediscovers our America – and the end of all our ‘On the Roads’ is to recognize ourselves for the first time.” — Lawrence Ferlinghetti
“This joyous adventure in the rediscovery of America not only makes a wonderfully readable book, it also shows our schools and colleges exciting new ways of teaching our children about their country and its history.” – Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
“Doug Brinkley knows more about American popular culture, how teachers ought to relate to students, the great American novels, the diplomatic history of the Cold War, what are the important historical sites, and why every American should visit them, than anyone else I know. This is a marvelous book, a veritable love song to America.”— Stephen Ambrose
“As the heritage of America’s Beat Generation Road appreciates in human understanding, this Majic Bus tour exemplifies many joys of Kerouac’s legacy – the old openhearted enthusiastic non-chauvinist American sprit of compassion to Person, Earth and Heaven expands toward this millenium’s end.”— Allen Ginsberg
“Douglas Brinkley, the indefatigabley eager guide for this Magical History Tour; rediscovers the American past in the American landscape. Along the way, Thomas Jefferson and Elvis Presley, Malcolm X and Mark Twain, Robert Johnson and Dr. King, and a hundred others come alive again for a new generation, linked to the places they lived, the country they changed.” — Geoffrey C. Ward