The assertion that the success of Ghost Rider lies only in the fact that Neil Peart was already a famous musician does the book a great injustice. Despite the fact that Peart has had only a few of his literary works published, the merits of his writing are clear. This essay aims to shows that Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider is, in fact, a good piece of travel writing and that it holds within its pages strong points attesting to its worth.
According to David Else, Don George and Charlotte Hindle in their book Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Writing, “Good travel writing needs much the same ingredients as any good story — narrative, drive, characters, dialogue, atmosphere, revelation. Make it personal. Let the reader know how the place and the experience are affecting you” These are all aspects that can easily be seen in Ghost Rider. Peart draws readers into his experience. The writing is no longer just about the places he is going through but rather about himself. It has become his journey and how he felt along the way. This is clear through the different recollections and personal correspondences in the storyline. These are appropriately placed as they come in only when something has induced such reminiscent thinking.
“Oh, it was a sad world, and it seemed to only get sadder. As I pushed on through central California I kept thinking about all the lost ones of the world, all the ghosts, and my little baby soul was dark and cold as I rode down” (Peart, 140) These lines show a clear apposition of Peart’s work with what Ravi (2) indicates as good travel writing. Ravi (2) asserts that travel writing is not only about the movement from one geographical location to another but also about the self, the retrieval of and connection to the self. This is clearly an aspect well portrayed in Ghost Rider. The reader does not only discover the physical journey but also the spiritual journey that Peart is taking. This is an undeniable aspect as Peart himself refers to his journey as one that is spiritual, even referring to the road as the Healing Road. (Peart, 111)
This aspect of travel writing was also emphasized by Don George in one of his personal interviews. Despite its nature, George says, travel writing is the weaving of a tale and not just a simple recounting of the actual travel experience. It is the blow by blow account of a life lesson, of a revelation that the author has acquired from his or her travel. Clearly, Peart has lived up to this standard of good writing. As Moreau recounts in, Ghost Writer, Peart shows his grief in its entirety, grief from the loss of his daughter.
Don George, in his interview, also pointed out that the use of literary techniques is one of the more important indicators of good travel writing. It is clear that Peart is an advanced writer as far as literary techniques go. His use of object correlative attests to this. This is a powerful travel writing technique that involves descriptive layers to portray the character’s emotions. An example is when Peart (138) writes, “On that weekday afternoon . . . I saw only a handful of people on the paths in the park, and the air of melancholy stayed with me.” He uses the description of his environment to show readers how he felt. He was lonely not just melancholy; he felt alone in the world. Peart also often uses the powerful technique of using minor characters as mirror. This is seen when Peart hands a $100 bill to one of the women begging for work. (Peart, 140) This interaction speaks volumes of what Peart is feeling on this part of the journey. More common literary techniques are also used in Ghost Rider such as defamiliarization, narrative hook (evidenced by the first sentence in page 101), and many more.
It is clear then that Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider is not merely an attachment to his w popularity as a musician. The success of Ghost Rider is resultant of Peart’s strong writing. This is not only in the fact that the literary techniques he used in putting his story were advanced and well placed. It is also in the fact that his writing has the aspects of travel writing identified by as essential in good travel writing.. Ghost Rider is personal in its approach to the reader and it presents not only Peart’s traveling but also his own realizations and spiritual journey along the way.
Else, David; George, Don; & Hindle, Charlotte. Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Writing. Australia: Lonely Planet Publications Ltd, 2005
George, Don. Personal Interview. 11 May 2005
Moreau, Kevin Forest. “Ghost Writer.” Shaking Through. Kevin Moreau. 15 September 2002. Retrieved 31 January 2008 <http://www.shakingthrough.net/books/reviews/2002/neil_peart_ghost_rider_2002.htm>
Peart, Neil. Ghost Rider. Ontario, Canada: ECW Press, 2002
Ravi, Srilata. “Travel and Text.” Asian Journal of Social Science 2003: 1-4