Slender Is The Thread: Tales from a Country Law Office

Overview

In a supplement to his The American Language, H.L. Mencken encapsulated the early history of Kentucky: "What is now Kentucky was the first region beyond the mountains to be settled. Pioneers began to invade it before the Revolution, and by 1782 it had more than 30,000 population. It was originally a part of Virginia, and the effort to organize it as an independent state took a great deal of politicking."

Kentuckian and lawyer Harry M. Caudill grew up in the coal fields of ...

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Slender Is The Thread: Tales from a Country Law Office

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Overview

In a supplement to his The American Language, H.L. Mencken encapsulated the early history of Kentucky: "What is now Kentucky was the first region beyond the mountains to be settled. Pioneers began to invade it before the Revolution, and by 1782 it had more than 30,000 population. It was originally a part of Virginia, and the effort to organize it as an independent state took a great deal of politicking."

Kentuckian and lawyer Harry M. Caudill grew up in the coal fields of Letcher County. His book Slender is the Thread reflects the history of a state whose citizens had to labor for their sustenance. Caudill's chapters reflect the mighty story of poor European immigrants struggling on primitive land and in wild mountains to survive, reproduce, and find sustenance for themselves and their households. Their frontier experience attuned the people to weak governments, self-help, quick wrath, and long memories, and revealed the influences that gave the state and its people their reputation for contented ignorance, colorful individualism, crankiness, self-reliance, contempt for court decisions, deadliness with gun and knife, and quirky and corrupt politics.

Spun from the experiences of his law office, Caudill was one of the great storytellers with a keen eye for the unexpected detail and ear for the unique turn of phrase. He denounced scoundrels, praised courage and justice wherever he found it, and celebrated the frailty of the human condition. Time goes on and stories of Kentucky and its people accumulate, and Caudill's stories help shape the thoughts and inspire the actions of the Kentuckians of tomorrow.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Mellow, frequently funny, sometimes elegiac.... The gallery of country lawyers, their clients and memorable cases will charm and intrigue Caudill's readers." -- Publishers Weekly

"The descriptions of the dangers and hardships which form part of a Kentucky coal miner's life are moving and make an eloquent appeal for social justice." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Reading the tales spun out of Harry Caudill's Letcher County law office, I can close my eyes and see the man, even hear his rich mountain voice -- measured, distinctly accented, engaging, etched with wit and anger and compassion. He had all the tools: a partisan's commitment, a historian's detachment, a storyteller's fine sense of pace and timing. The highest compliment I can pay him is this: He wrote like he talked, and when you read him, you're listening to him. Harry may be gone, but his words and his wisdom hover like mist on the mountains. They are his lasting gift to Kentucky and the nation" -- John Egerton

"Storytellers are born, not made -- although the stories they weave may not be at least partially "made" from their knowledge of the human character, their fertile imaginations, and their reach for hearty, unstinting healthy laughter. Harry Caudill was a storyteller. One of the best. He had a keen eye for the unexpected detail, and ear for the unique turn of phrase, and a flowing oratorical delivery. He denounced scoundrels of high and low station, praised courage and justice wherever he found it, and celebrated the ridiculous frailty of the human condition. The next best thing to hearing Harry tell these tales from his 'country law office' is to have them collected here for our perpetual enjoyment in Slender Is The Thread." -- Wilma Dykeman

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Caudill first came to widespread public notice in 1962, with the publication of his passionate and moving treatise on Appalachia, Night Comes to the Cumberlands. In his new book, he returns yet again to his native Eastern Kentucky, but his tone is altogether different now: mellow, sometimes gently elegiac, frequently funny, nearly always charming. Caudill's previous rage at the appalling conditions, past and present, of life in the Southern mountains appears to have evaporated. There's hardly a vestige of the ferocious attack on the coal bosses and failing social institutions that he sustained in the earlier book. The courthouse types and country doctors, who appeared in a far harsher light in Night Comes, now seem sympathetic. Even the incredible massacres engineered by the Kentucky feudists seem somehow less terrible here; more like tall tales from a mythic past. Caudill's gallery of country lawyers, their clients and memorable cases will charm and intrigue his readers. (July)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813108117
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 5/28/1992
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 526,384
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.41 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Harry M. Caudill (1922-1990) grew up in the coal fields of Letcher County, Kentucky, with a zest for history and reading. After being seriously wounded in Italy during World War II, Caudill went to the University of Kentucky Law School and later practiced law in Whitesburg, in Letcher County. He held some local political offices, in addition to a seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Caudill's 1963 book, Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area was and is a very influential work on Eastern Kentucky, affecting local and national government through individuals ranging from President Kennedy to Kentucky governors and Appalachian writers such as Denise Giardina. After retiring from practicing law, Caudill wrote 6 more books, more than 80 articles, and many editorials in the local Whitesburg paper, The Mountain Eagle. He delivered frequent speeches on strip mining and other Eastern Kentucky issues.

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