Industrial smoke turns the noon sky black. Beneath its clouds the poorest people in Europe arrange flowers on a dictator’s grave. On Avienda de las Pulgas an Oldsmobile slows down for a better view. Emerging from a lemon grove is the last pedestrian in California. At a nuclear plant the only sound is the sighing of photocopiers. Another party of visitors gets ready for a tour. Welcome to Badlands. Our guides are a survivor of Europe’s most bizarre political regime, a poet who wishes to be abducted by aliens, and the author himself, reluctant aid worker, tourist with a computer tan, regretting his decision to call in at The Zoo for a quick one.
In these essays the writer travels from the impoverished of Albania to the scorched suburbia of Silicon Valley. On the way he encounters a foreign country called England, twenty thousand frozen lakes, and a desert of dinosaur bones. The people of Badlands include Coleridge and Ryan Giggs, Colonel Sanders and Freud, plus a host of minor deities from the numbing world of celebrity. Urban and rural, tragic and absurd, Badlands is a real place. But where the borders of Badlands begin, or finish, is difficult to say.