Gather at the River: Notes from the Post-Millennial South

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To read Hal Crowther is to find yourself agreeing with views on topics you never knew you cared so much about. In Gather at the River, Crowther extends the wide-angle vision of Southern life presented in his highly acclaimed collection Cathedrals of Kudzu. He cuts to the heart of recent political, religious, and cultural issues but pauses to appreciate the sweet things that the South has to offer, like music, baseball, great writers, and strong women.

Some of these essays invite debate. Crowther gives a balanced perspective on the tragedy of the Branch Davidians at Waco, shedding light on a different world of religiosity and revealing urban media prejudices for what they are. He describes the unique heroism of a fallen Marine in the Iraq war, a war fought by one class and promoted by another. And his solution to racial conflict -- interracial procreation -- will jump-start readers' sensibilities.

In other chapters, Crowther discusses the grim portrayal of the South in early film and the triumphs of Southern music. His literary essays include appreciations of William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Elizabeth Spencer, and Wendell Berry, and a biting lampoon of exhibitionist memoirs. Among the Southerners Crowther profiles with pride are the art historian and Museum of Modern Art curator Kirk Varnedoe; the great, cursed baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson; the curmudgeonly realist H. L. Mencken; and the singer Dolly Parton, whose candid artifice inspires the author's litmus test for Southern authenticity.

LSU Press

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Part curmudgeon, part humorist and all Southerner, syndicated columnist Crowther declaims in his characteristically droll way on matters Southern, from Thomas Wolfe, Larry Brown and Eudora Welty to Dolly Parton, Jesse Helms and art historian Kirk Varnedoe. He probes how the South has changed in its confrontations with the 21st century and how it has stayed the same. These lucid and probing dispatches reveal the depth of the South's reluctance to tell about itself to outsiders and its tendency toward sly storytelling to mask its secrets. But, Crowther continues, nowhere is there an "innocent savage who lives an unexamined life on the thin ice of unexamined history, who unwraps his darkest secrets for any rank stranger with a tape recorder." On music, Crowther celebrates the purity of the bluegrass in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? ("After you've heard Alison Krauss and Ralph Stanley, can you go back to Faith Hill and Tim McGraw?") and holds up Dolly Parton as an authentic Southerner ("beneath a blinding surface of deliberate, exaggerated, self-satirizing artifice lurks one of the most engagingly authentic individuals in the Nashville pantheon"). Crowther's rollicking, raucous essays offer probing insights into the mind and manners of the New South. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807131008
  • Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Series: Southern Literary Studies
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Hal Crowther is a syndicated columnist, essayist, and critic, whose work appears regularly in the Oxford American, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Independent Weekly, and Progressive Populist, among many other publications. In former years, he was a staff writer for Time and media editor for Newsweek. He was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Commentary in 2003 and winner of the H. L. Mencken Writing Award from the Baltimore Sun. His previous books are Unarmed but Dangerous and Cathedrals of Kudzu: A Personal Landscape of the South, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award and the Fellowship of Southern Writers Award for Nonfiction. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with his wife, the novelist Lee Smith.

LSU Press

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Table of Contents

The Tao of Dixie : a stubborn people 1
The shoes of a giant 11
Landmarks : the three graces 16
First person singular : a boy and his dog 22
Oral misery : the Columbus syndrome 27
Son of a preacher man : Marshall Frady (1940-2004) 31
The other appetite : the literature of lust 39
Faulkner and the mosquitoes 46
Gather at the river : the O Brotherhood 55
Movies, mules, and music 60
Nashville : Dolly and the subterfugitives 65
The last song of Father Banjo 71
The last autochthon : listening to the land 79
A man of the world 84
Among the true believers 89
Storming Heaven 94
The last resort 99
A prophet from Savannah 107
A farewell to arms 121
The old dragons sleep 126
Who's your daddy? : fathers of us all 132
The curse of shoeless Joe 138
Sacred art, southern fried : harlots and hellfire 143
Mencken and me : indiscreet charms of the Bourgeoisie 147
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