Mississippi Solo: A River Quest

Overview

Since the publication of his first book, Mississippi Solo, Eddy L. Harris has been praised for his travel writing. In this exciting reissue of his classic travelogue, readers will come to treasure the rich insightful prose that is as textured as the Mississippi River itself. They will be taken by the hand by an adventurer whose lifelong dream is to canoe the length of this mighty river, from Minnesota to New Orleans. The trip's dangers were legion for a Black man traveling alone, paddling from "where there ain't ...

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Overview

Since the publication of his first book, Mississippi Solo, Eddy L. Harris has been praised for his travel writing. In this exciting reissue of his classic travelogue, readers will come to treasure the rich insightful prose that is as textured as the Mississippi River itself. They will be taken by the hand by an adventurer whose lifelong dream is to canoe the length of this mighty river, from Minnesota to New Orleans. The trip's dangers were legion for a Black man traveling alone, paddling from "where there ain't no black folks to where they still don't like us much." Barge waives loom large, wild dogs roam the wooded shores, and, in the Arkansas dusk, two shotgun-toting bigots nearly bring the author's dream to a bloody . Sustaining him through the hard weeks of paddling were the hundreds of people who reached out to share a small piece of his challenge. Mississippi Solo is a big, rollicking, brilliant book, a wonderful piece of American adventure, and an unforgettable story of a man testing his own limits.

Never having canoed before, and with the loan of a friend's boat, Eddy L. Harris sets out to row the length of the Mississippi River--alone. Beautifully captured is the river's culture, the character of its people, as well as a man's remarkable spirit.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A wonderful book—and a highly original contribution to the literature of travel." —Paul Theroux"

In his mastery of language, glinting irony, poetic prose, and uncanny powers of observation, Eddy L. Harris is the equal of Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin."—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805059038
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/15/1998
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 498,273
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Eddy L. Harris is the author of three critically acclaimed books, Native Stranger, South of Haunted Dreams, and Still Life in Harlem, a New York Times Book Review notable book of 1997.  A graduate of Stanford University, he teaches at Washington University in Missouri.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Harris portrays the relationship between mankind and the natural world in a variety of ways, sometimes depicting exhilarating harmony, at other times giving evidence of violent clashes. How should human beings regard the forces of nature?

2. The author continually personifies the river, describing it as everything from a wise old sage to a daring adolescent. To what extent does the river personify Harris?

3. Harris has mixed feelings about the Army Corps of Engineers and the intricate system of locks that have changed the course, and the force, of the Mississippi. What is your opinion on these issues of nature versus commerce?

4. Discuss the cultural differences that emerge as Harris travels farther south. Does the scenery reflect its inhabitants, or is nature a constant in this trip?

5. Though Harris's trip is officially a solo excursion, the book features a vivid cast of characters. Which ones were most memorable for you? How would you have interacted with Harris had you been one of the strangers encountered on his journey?

6. What do you make of the fact that Harris's brother is an awkward addition to the trip, but Harris is instantly comfortable with many of the strangers he meets along the way? What is it like to travel with your relatives?

7. How might Harris's experience have changed if he had been white? Or if he had been female?

8. Does Harris's perception of racism change during this trip? Does he appear to change the perceptions of the bigots he encounters?

9. Discuss the motivations of the other boaters Harris encounters. How does his quest compare to theirs? How does his quest change as he nears New Orleans?

10. In the second paragraph of chapter three, Harris writes, "when a man has only one great notion, it becomes all the more valuable, a jewel, a prized and noble possession. He cherishes it . . . all the while haunted by its existence and his burning desire to hurry up with it." What is your version of Harris's river quest, your "great notion"?

11. In what way does Mississippi Solo present a quintessential U.S. journey, capturing America's unique personality, history, and landscape? How would his experience have been different had he chosen one of the other massive rivers he mentions, such as the Amazon or the Congo?

12. Harris made this trip in the early 1980s. What changes might he observe if he traveled the Mississippi today?

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