saturday

It used to be that hitchhiking through Europe after college wasn’t just for trust-funders looking to “find their way” before eventually ending up in law school—and wasn’t a huge cliché, at that. But, by 1968, you could definitely see it was on its way. Joe Mack’s new memoir, 1968 and I’m Hitchhiking Through Europe, is pretty much the literary equivalent of Snakes on a Plane: It delivers no less than what its title promises—and certainly no more. The 300-page travelogue recounts a long-haired, 21-year-old Mack’s travels through France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Germany, and points north during a time of social and political upheaval. But while the events of that turbulent year color Mack’s experiences—his travels through a strike-ridden France, for instance—they don’t seem to have affected him too directly, perhaps even less than the seemingly endless parade of attractive Scandinavian women he encounters along the way. And there’s not a whole lot else holding Mack’s story together. His accounts tend toward the needlessly digressive, so perhaps it’s best to treat 1968 and I’m Hitchhiking Through Europe as less a work of literature than an artifact, a primary source from an era when Americans treated Europe as something other than the home of obstreperous Europeans. The parade of political discussions he has with foreign compatriots—even more endless than the Scandinavian women—is at least enough to remind us all of a time when Europeans’ charmingly naive political beliefs made them love Americans, not hate them. Mack discusses and signs copies of his work at 1 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. (202) 364-1919. (Mike DeBonis)