Phillips Russell, advocate of roads less robotically traveled

“Not everyone was so enamored of the [Interstate highway] system’s unrelenting predictability. Critics had decried the sterile nature of high-speed roads since long before limited-access became a reality….

“Phillips Russell of North Carolina’s Chapel Hill Weekly wrote in 1930 that ‘as fast as improvements are perfected, highways constantly tend to become dull and uninteresting to travel over,’ lulling travelers into ‘a state of silent torpor, with no more animation than a box of hibernating terrapins.’ ”

— From “Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways” by Earl Swift (2011)

Phillips Russell was a year away from joining the faculty at UNC, where he first taught English, then journalism. I hadn’t realized — thank you, Dictionary of North Carolina Biography — that Russell helped popularize this still-useful  admonition to writers of slow-to-launch stories: “Bring on the bear.”

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