Sunday Salon: My Car Was Totalled–Some Literature About Cars

I have to start shopping for a new car today.

On my way to work this past Friday I was rear-ended; my car totalled.  (Why does totalled mean damaged beyond repair now?  Probably comes from totally destroyed.)

Traffic had stopped at a place where I don’t think it’s ever been stopped in the 13 some odd years I’ve been driving my commute.  And it’s been raining here in California which means everyone forgets how to drive.  I stopped behind the truck in front of me, then heard terrific screeching behind me and the back of my car suddenly began moving forward.  Scary.  I felt like I was in one of those movies where reality begins to collapse inward on the hero.

I walked away and I’m doing fine today.  I was only a little sore yesterday so C.J. and I are planning to start looking at new cars later today.  There’s no point in crying over split milk.  We were going to wait eight more years before we bought a new car, but God laughs at people who make plans as they say.

So please feel free to leave car suggestions in the comments below. I’m 6’5″ tall so this must be taken into consideration and we’d like to drive off the lot at under 20,000 dollars so we’re on a bit of a budget.  We need a four door due to the dogs and are interested in a hatchback.

It’s always east to find irony when something like this happens, but I was in the middle of Laurence Cosse’s novel An Accident in August which is about a woman connected to the death of Lady Diana.  The novel’s protagonist is driving home late at night when she is sideswiped by a speeding Mercedes that then crashes into the center divider.  The protagonist leaves the scene though she knows the law requires her to stop.  When she later discovers that Lady Diana was in the Mercedes she begins to fear that she may have caused the accident and that she will become known world round as the woman who killed the princess if she is discovered.

It’s an okay book, but maybe I was kind of asking for it in a cosmic sense.

All of this has me thinking of books about cars this morning.  I don’t  mean books about road trips, though there are lots of those, but books that are specifically about cars at least on some level about the machines or about the act of driving them rather than road trip books which are often just stories set in cars.

Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Christine by Stephen King.  This novel, as I remember, really spends a lot of time talking about the actual car itself which I why I list it and not Cujo which is set inside a stalled car but is not about a car.

Drive by James Sallis.  A wonderful crime novel with plenty of stuff about how to drive a get-a-way car.

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck because while clearly a road novel Steinbeck spends many pages describing the custom built camper he and the titular dog drove across America.

Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang by Ian Fleming.  As I recall there is plenty about the car itself along with the wild adventures so I’m including it here.

Crash by J.G. Ballard.  This one is not about a single car, but it’s laregly a love letter, albeit a very creepy one, to the machines and their demise.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood.  This seems like an odd choice but there is some wonderful stuff in Isherwood’s novel about driving in Los Angeles.  I think it has some of the best writing about this topic that you’re likely to ever find.

I’d love to hear what other titles you all can think of.

So, I’m in very good spirits at this point.  We’ve yet to really start dealing with the insurance and the police reports etc., but the basic paperwork has all been done.  The driver who hit me stayed on the scene and was quite helpful really so all in all as life threatening accidents go this one has turned out pretty darn well as far as I’m concerned.

And it forced me to spend yesterday on the sofa reading novels.

So that’s always good.

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17 Comments

  1. I am so happy you weren’t hurt. I often worry about someone doing that to me when I am on my motorbike. A reason to ride most of the time with one ear in my rear vision mirror. How ironic, indeed that this has given you fodder for a blog post. I immediately thought of Christine but off hand I can’t think of any car books. I also can’t give you any suggestions for a car as the American cars are now out of my knowledge base. All the best.

    1. Everything is fodder for blog posts once you’be been at it long enough. You’l think there would be lots of car related titles since cars are so central to life in America, but I’ve really had a hard time thinking of any.

  2. Trish says:

    I’m so sorry about your car accident and glad that you’re doing relatively fine. There’s nothing worse than sitting stopped in your car, looking in the rear view mirror, and watching the other car smash into you. Wish I had a car suggestion for you. We are Honda and Toyota people–both very good and reliable.

    Travels with Charley was the one that immediately came to mind. If you want to get morbid, there is a bit of detail about the school bus that Chris McCandless died in in Into the Wild.

    1. Hondas and Toyotas tend to not have enough room for me, at least last time around when I tried both. I didn’t see the car, just heard it, fortunately. Not something I want to see.

  3. Jeane says:

    Glad to know you are ok. Just the idea of being in a car accident frightens me. Sorry, I don’t have any suggestions- I know a book about motorcycles, but none about cars. Saw one on another blog where the engine of a car was part of a sci-fi story- it was doing things a normal engine wouldn’t do or something- but unfortunately I can’t remember the title now. Maybe that blogger will come by here and tell you!

    1. I thought about including “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainance” but decided against it since it’s not about a car.

      1. Jeane says:

        That’s the exact one I was thinking of- but yeah, wrong vehicle.

  4. Whew, glad you weren’t hurt! As for replacement vehicles, we’ve had great luck with Jeeps (even though Consumer Reports hates them) and Toyotas. Travels with Charley is the first book that popped into my head…think it may be time for a reread.

    1. Thanks, We do like the Toyota but the tend to be too small for me.

  5. Jeanne says:

    Anton Myrer, The Last Convertible. The car is a metaphor, but still!

    1. I think we can count a metaphor.

  6. Walking away is a good outcome – phew! I can only think of a short story about a car by Agatha Christie in her collection The Listerdale Mystery. It’s ‘The Manhood of Edward Robinson’ about a car as the catalyst for transforming a young man’s life. Set in a flapper-ish time.

    1. You’d think there would be more stories like that one, but we all seem to be having a tough time coming up with titles.

  7. Lisa says:

    I’m sorry that your car was totalled & that you have buy a new one – but glad it was damaged & not you! There’s a short book called Travels with Zenobia, about the writer Rose Wilder Lane driving a Model T from Paris to Albania in the 1920s. And Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk is like a driving tour of Provence in the 1950s (complete with white-knuckled races).

    1. No that you mention it, I have a book by one of the very first women to drive across America near the turn of the last century. I cannot recall the title and I have not read it yet, but it’s sure to have lots of information about the car since they were still so new at that time.

      1. Lisa says:

        If you do read that one, I’ll be very interested to hear about it. I like travel stories from that period, especially women travelers.

  8. Karen K. says:

    So sorry to hear about your accident, and I’m glad you walked away relatively unscathed. I think it’s called Totalled because from an insurance standpoint, it’s a total loss — the repair costs would exceed the car’s current value. I myself rear-ended someone about a year ago, it was awful. No one was hurt but my car was seriously damaged — not quite totalled, amazingly, but it was never the same and I traded it in a few months later. And I bought a Toyota Camry. I love it, but I see that you’re looking for something larger.

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