Frank Brusca is a George R. Stewart Scholar with a special interest: U. S. 40. He discovered the book when he was a boy, and it has shaped his life since. Frank’s goal is to re-photograph as many of the places Stewart photographed in 1949 and 1950 as he can, to record the changes over time. Geographers Tom and Geraldine Vale did that for their 1983 classic U.S. 40 Today, which tracked changes over the 30 years since GRS published his book. Brusca has more elaborate plans – he’s including color and virtual panoramas of some sites.
His love affair with U. S. 40, highway and book, helped Brusca connect with author William Least Heat Moon, who wrote the classic Blue Highways. Eventually Least Heat Moon and Brusca traveled the old highway together. Those journies are the meat of four chapters about Brusca and GRS and his road book in Least Heat Moon’s Roads to Quoz. (Least Heat Moon is also a fan of GRS’s other work, and so there’s more GRS influence in Blue Highways.)
Last Sunday, Frank held a web meeting for a small group of road scholars, describing his project in detail and showing his photos of the GRS sites on the old highway. It was impressive to see how much he’s done so far. His work, like that of the Vales, expands Stewart’s ground-breaking book.
Brusca has a deep understanding of Stewart’s book. During the web session, Brusca revealed how to identify a first first printing of U.S. 40 – one photo is a mistake, so the book was pulled and corrected. (The photo, from a Hogback ridge west of Denver, was supposed to show the town and valley to the west of the ridge, but a photo from the ridge showing the eastern view was printed.) If you have a copy with the wrong photo, you have an early first printing.
His knowledge of the book and the highway helped my GRS biography. Brusca directed me to German Filmmaker Hartmut Bitomsky, whose U.S. 40 West was inspired by Stewart’s book. Bitomsky agreed to a long interview about the film and Stewart’s influence on the work; much of that interview is in my book.
Frank is off on a road photographing trip this summer. He drives from Massachusetts to San Francisco, and then zips back, photographing as he goes. (I hope to join him for one or two days in Calfornia.) He will also copy some of the original negatives for U.S. 40, in the Bancroft Library.
All of this is expensive. Just copying the Stewart photographs in the Bancroft would cost more than $5,000. So far, it’s been self-funded. But now Brusca has a Kickstarter proposal to help fund the effort. If you’d like to help, you can do so here. A small 30 dollar pledge gets you an ebook with all of the 120 photos he’s planning to put in the book. More important, you become a patron of continuing the U.S. 40 work of GRS, the Vales, William Least Heat Moon, and Frank Brusca.