Cover image for Off-ramp : adventures and heartache in the American elsewhere
Off-ramp : adventures and heartache in the American elsewhere
1st Picador ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador : Henry Holt and Co., 2005, c2004.
Physical Description:
xx, 297 p. ; 21 cm.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 973.92 STU 1 1

On Order



In his unique, funny, and haunting reports from "Elsewhere," Hank Stuever records the odd and touching realities of modern life in everyday places. Elsewhere might be revealed in the tract-house adventures of a home-décor reality show, at a discount funeral home in a strip mall, or in the story of an armed man named Honey Bear in the hunt for his beloved but now missing sleeper sofa which he left in a store unit. Off Ramp shows us America through the humorous gaze of Hank Stuever, who finds beauty in the midst of the most unlikely and invisible lives and places.

Author Notes

Hank Stuever 's work is currently seen in The Washington Post , where he is a staff writer. He has twice been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing and has appeared on Today , MSNBC, and various radio programs. He lives in Washington, D.C.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The American landscape is ripe with humor and pathos. And it's been Stuever's privilege for the past 14 years to chronicle the people who populate it. Part social commentary, part paean to ordinary life, this is Stuever's valentine to America's everyman. It's a compilation of newspaper articles he wrote for the Albuquerque Tribune, Austin American-Statesman and the Washington Post. These quiet observational pieces visit the author's muse, Elsewhere, which he defines as a place "that offers what I considered to be true mystery. If I was looking, I could find the Lord, death, porn, destruction, tanning booths and teriyaki chicken bowls." And that's just for openers. The real journey Stuever, a staff writer for the Washington Post, takes is both personal and profound. Whether documenting a wedding in New Mexico, two best friends in Plano, Tex., who swap decorating challenges on Trading Spaces or the challenge of getting a huge sofa into a Washington, D.C., apartment, Stuever looks deep into the American psyche. In his quiet, gentle way, he records our banalities and triumphs. He casts the net wide-and what he catches is a nation gripped by longing, loss, hope and social convention. Stuever does not overtly judge his subjects, but he neatly inserts subtle mocks and digs. Still, his empathy and his humanity are evident on every page. This tender, funny, compelling collection is an homage to the rhythms and cadences of modern life. Agent, Heather Schroder. (July 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus Review

Observant, compassionate collection of newspaper pieces exploring America's odd corners. Oklahoman Stuever, now a Washington Post Style section writer, having reported from locales including LA, Albuquerque, and Austin, describes his beat of defunct malls, K-Marts, and sci-fi conventions as "Elsewhere . . . the kind of world where I look for ideas, for joy and loss and the marginal things, the funny quirks of what is bland and true." The 26 essays and profiles here range from offbeat consumer studies to artful deconstructions of common rituals, all of them underpinned by notes of angst, isolation, and millennial fearfulness. The self-deprecating author ("I got lost a lot . . . and I was not terribly cool") proves adept at fly-on-the-wall reportage, insinuating himself into the lives of quirky or mildly desperate individuals without imposing his own personality on their situations. Many essays find a starting point in pop-culture phenomena: "Panic Rooms," for example, depicts the cable TV show Trading Spaces' Darwinian effect on two home-owning strivers in Plano, Texas, who submit to its redecorating schemes. "The Josie Problem" and "Wonder Woman's Powers" look at the histories, creators, and strange commercial afterlives of a TV show and a comic-book series that both present oddball visions of female empowerment and are beloved by gay men. Some pieces were clearly written in response to current events: "Recallifornia" finds an ideal metaphor for that state's troubled gubernatorial process in the lonely, cynical, yet indefatigable person of Gary Coleman, while "Evil Queens" reminds us of Richard Hatch, the Survivor schemer we loved to hate. "Modern Bride" is a detailed yet ambiguous take on a mid-sized wedding thrown by a middle-class Hispanic family. The best essays--a piece on storage-unit culture and a haunting personalization of the Oklahoma City bombing--dig deeper into our domestic isolation and wanderlust. Stuever's work recalls that of David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs (who provides a blurb), but it's generally sweeter and less biting. Low-key, modest pleasures. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Stuever, staff writer with the Style section of the Washington Post, offers an absorbing look at the marginal things in American life, the funny quirks of what is bland and true. Drawing on his experiences writing for newspapers from Albuquerque to Texas to Washington, D.C., the journalist covers the American Elsewhere. Eschewing major news, scoops, or prizewinning stories, Stuever brings glimpses into ordinary America: two couples in Plano, Texas, who subject their homes and friendships to the rigors of the Trading Spaces home-redecorating show; an Albuquerque family in the weeks leading up to the overly elaborate wedding of their youngest daughter; a group of Texans searching for fragments from the fallen Columbia spacecraft; and the fractured world of Stuever's grandfather after the bombing in Oklahoma City. With an incredible eye for detail, Stuever offers observations of the minutiae and underlying passions of American life. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2004 Booklist

Table of Contents

Elsewhere, Next Exit: A Prefacep. xi
Traded Spaces
The Couch That Warped Space-Timep. 3
Panic Roomsp. 12
Modern Bridep. 25
Invisible Airplane
Prequel Dreamsp. 55
The Josie Problemp. 71
Evil Queensp. 79
I Don't Know How to Love Himp. 83
Recalliforniap. 91
Wonder Woman's Powersp. 106
Everything Must Go
Other People's Stuffp. 119
Scooch Overp. 130
The Faster Lanep. 136
Sci-Fidop. 146
Living Alonep. 154
Off Ramps
All Faithsp. 161
Spirits Having Floatedp. 188
Notes on Kampp. 195
Service Is Needed in Layawayp. 206
Xanadu Tuesdaysp. 210
Where Credit Is Duep. 220
Could It Happen Here
Nine-ishp. 239
Blonder Heads Prevailedp. 244
What We Talk About When We Talk About Chandrap. 254
Snipers 'n' Thingsp. 264
Missing Piecesp. 268
Unassigned Landsp. 278
Acknowledgmentsp. 295