Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life by Chuck Kinder, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life

Last Mountain Dancer: Hard-Earned Lessons in Love, Loss, and Honky-Tonk Outlaw Life

by Chuck Kinder
     
 

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On sabbatical from his professorship at the University of Pittsburgh, native West Virginian Chuck Kinder (portrayed as Grady Tripp in Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys and played by Michael Douglas in the film) makes a midlife pilgrimage to his homeland to re-imagine and reconnect with that fabled, fantastic country. Confronting the regrets and heartaches of his past,

Overview


On sabbatical from his professorship at the University of Pittsburgh, native West Virginian Chuck Kinder (portrayed as Grady Tripp in Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys and played by Michael Douglas in the film) makes a midlife pilgrimage to his homeland to re-imagine and reconnect with that fabled, fantastic country. Confronting the regrets and heartaches of his past, present, and future, Kinder seeks solace in the funny and raunchy family stories, lies, legends, and history that reside in West Virginia's haunted hills and the hollows of his memory. But more than anything, Kinder wants to live it up hillbilly style. Immersing himself among the lives of mountaineer characters, both the quick and the dead, the bad-boy author bears holy witness to the triumphs and misdeeds of the loafers and misfits, winos and oddball characters of his homeland. Readers will be astonished by tales of bloody mine wars, outlaws on the run, roadhouse romance, barroom brawlers, beer-joint ballerinas, and a man who calls himself the last mountain dancer. With mothmen, moonshiners, and family feudists, it's Planet West Virginia. Chuck Kinder's wild-ride rediscovery of his West Virginian roots is sure to quicken all of our hillbilly hearts.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the beginning of this bawdy, in your face, hugely entertaining bear of a book, Kinder explains that he intends to tell readers about his home state, West Virginia, land of "legendary mountain dancers, moonshiners, stupendous marijuana farmers, snakehandlers, blood-feudists, mystery midgets, mothmen [and] horny space aliens who drop into my home state as regular as clock-work in order to engage in extra-terrestrial sex with a multitude of juicy West Virginia majorettes...." On sabbatical from his professorship at the University of Pittsburgh, Kinder travels home to mine the state's legendary depravity. Family members, old drinking buddies, new drinking buddies and a host of others flood the narrative. Sparks fly, plans are hatched, threats are made and a lot of legally questionable activity is engaged in, and Kinder's fine prose relates it all. But the sheer density of outlandish behavior and credibility-stretching hijinks can, at times, be exhausting. Through the unending consumption of booze, controlled substances and sex, Kinder seems unable (or unwilling) to let any detail go unmentioned. He thereby loses a bit of perspective on both the foreground subject (Kinder and his life and travails), as well as the background (West Virginia and its place in the annals of strange and nobly benighted Americana). Still, Kinder's unflappable, humble demeanor and heartbreaking humanity hold this sometimes unwieldy book together. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
On sabbatical from his job teaching college writing at the University of Pittsburgh, Kinder (Snakehunter, Silver Ghost, and Honeymooners) travels the back roads of his home state in his truck, trying to live the life of a hard-drinking, fornicating, genuine West Virginian. Married, but having an affair with a much younger mother of two, he struggles to write about his heritage and survive a midlife crisis. Yet his strength lies in his storytelling ability, as when he relates the time he met Sen. Robert Byrd hanging out with the locals or recalls Sid Hatfield, gunned-down folk hero of the unionized coal miners. The text abounds in historical anecdotes, e.g., an account of the secret bomb shelter beneath the Greenbrier Hotel, which reportedly duplicated the whole resort underground. Though the book is funny, outrageous, and irreverent as it probes the mountains and hollows for the oddballs and barflies living there, Kinder tries too hard to be the bad boy, which limits the book's appeal to those interested in West Virginia honky-tonk life. Recommended with some reservations for large public libraries.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Novelist Kinder (Honeymooners, 2001, etc.) pours out sudden, undomesticated, melancholy word songs from his home place, where he's returned to gather stories for stewing in his imagination and memory. On sabbatical from his teaching job at the University of Pittsburgh-and, not incidentally, from his wife of 20 years-the author holes up in small-town West Virginia to appropriate the stories of "mountaineer characters, both the quick and the dead, among both my family members and strangers." Here in the haunted hills of his youth, along their twisty roads, he will rediscover "a mostly imagined interior landscape populated by mythic beings: legendary mountain dancers, moonshiners, stupendous marijuana farmers, snakehandlers, blood-feudists, mystery midgets, mothmen, horny space aliens," to which can be added Hank Williams and Saint Elvis, lover Holly and lover Mary X, a grace-sent sister, Matewan and Blair Mountain, and enough George Dickel to float a boat. Kinder is also there to take mid-life stock of himself: the stories of his youth have a wicked, poignant bite, but they are much of what shaped him today, with all the lying and cheating and wild behavior. It's not ultimately too surprising that the guy who calls Sid Hatfield "that wisecracking, wiry, killer nihilist magical West Virginian warrior" should later find himself "armed to the teeth, driving my redneck, ritual-feudist kinfolks around in rain that was becoming black and whispery . . . happy as a clam." Scouting out strange and grief-filled stories, then recounting them with peerless "pure High Hillbilly" flair, Kinder is weak on the emotional front; his wife has him squarely in the crosshairs when she says, "You always havetried to live your life like a country song. Full of fucking melodrama and cheap sentimentality." He is impenitent, ready to kick back the piano stool the better to hammer the keys: "Who else did I have to bare my so-called soul to, except perhaps the world at large?" Lucky us, to be out there in the audience. Agent: Faith Hamlin/Sanford J. Greenburger Associates

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786714063
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
09/09/2004
Pages:
457
Product dimensions:
6.36(w) x 9.12(h) x 1.49(d)

Meet the Author


Chuck Kinder is a native West Virginian. He has worked as a coal miner, bartender, bouncer, bandit, cook, and college professor. As a young itinerant professor he taught at Stanford University, the University of California at Davis, and the University of Alabam at Tuscaloosa. The auhtor of the novels SNAKEHUNTER, SILVER GHOST, and HONEYMOONERS, Kinder is well-known as the real-life counterpart to Grady Tripp, the professor played by Michael Douglas in the film based on Michael Chabon’s WONDER BOYS. He is currently Director of the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh.

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