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Video lit: Ted Conover at Zocalo Public Square

November 24, 2010 |  2:02 pm

As we move into holiday weekend time, Jacket Copy will be posting some literary videos, the kind of things you notice but don't have time to watch in full when getting through the workday.

Our first video is about the roads we take: Ted Conover, who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his book "Newjack," about guarding Sing Sing, came to Los Angeles earlier this year to talk about his latest, "The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today."

We reviewed "The Routes of Man":

Over six chapters, Conover travels roads in Peru, India, Kenya, the West Bank, China and Nigeria in trucks, taxis, cars, an ambulance and on foot. Early on, he acknowledges his visceral attraction to the road, the early pleasure he took in hitchhiking, his youthful love of Kerouac and Whitman, but this is refreshingly nonromantic road writing. What Conover has brought back is a clear-eyed understanding that roads confine as much as they liberate, that they make the world more accessible but also infinitely more dangerous and exploitable.

In the above clip, Conover talks about a harrowing ride in China that's part of his book. Conover has made it a point to explore worlds that are unfamiliar to him. "That's kind of been the key to whatever success I have had as a writer, is getting out there and trying to talk to people who aren't like me," he says in his speech. "That's kind of a route of this book. Road trips, traveling with people, doing their things." The full-length video of Conover's Los Angeles appearance is online at Zócalo.

-- Carolyn Kellogg