America is defined for me by sound and space. I read the wrong kind of fiction at the wrong kind of age; now, books are bound up with science fiction and European history and mythology. Music, though, and cinema, belong to America.

The mythic landscape is a big canvas, and modern Britain is too small and squashed. I could never have survived here, crushed between Thatcher and Eastenders—so I escaped. The world was bigger, long ago, before concrete and steel compressed time and space, squashing it all together. I took refuge in the past—and in America.

This, then, is the difference between Britain and America: we live with echoes, memories of greatness and glory and battles and great darkness and great light, but those things are past. Only America is still alive as a mythic place. This is why they’re so weird over there—and why sometimes it feels like everyone here is dead inside. We have our little victories, our little escapes; we laugh at ourselves, and in the process create great comedy. The canvas is smaller, the defeats are smaller, but we have lost the power of greatness.

America is big. No one knows what happens out there, in the wilderness, the forests and the mountains and the deserts that seem to go on forever. The individual—the gunslinger, the blues singer—has power because the people are scattered, isolated. Out there, the balance of power can be swayed by one man’s conscience.

The blues came from Africa with the slaves, and England with the religion, but only in America could it flourish. Only there, it had room to breathe. All that empty space was waiting to be filled, wanted to be filled, with something new. A whisper can fill a silent room.

A big world attracts giants, and sure enough they came: Robert Johnson, John Wayne, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan. These are the storytellers, the patterners who weave together America for me. History and myth have a strange relationship, a feedback loop spinning out ethereal static. When you lose the myth, the world seems so sad and grey. The world I grew up in has no myths anymore, and I’ve always wanted to leave.

I’ve never been there, but America speaks to me, whispers to me from the pages of books and the landscape of cinema. There is an America inside me, but that’s not enough: I want to se the real thing, bigger and more grandiose than my imagined one, yet even more deeply flawed and human. I want to go somewhere big, and America is nothing if not that.

I have a hunger for myths: stories give my life meaning, and myths are the biggest and most mystical of stories. The mythos of America defines my internal landscape, and I need to find these mythic spaces myself if I’m to truly write. Out there, in the desert, I will find something. Truth, maybe, or a muse, or just emptiness. But even emptiness is something. Maybe it’ll be enough.