Synopses & Reviews
In Gather at the River, Hal 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. He describes an example of unique heroism in the Iraq war, a war fought by one class and promoted by another. And he recommends interracial procreation as a solution to racial conflict. 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 and Wendell Berry, and a biting lampoon of exhibitionist memoirs. He profiles with pride 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. In Gather at the River, Crowther combines lyrical language with wit and frankness, and the South--with all its burdens, curiosities, and promises--comes vividly into view.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In this follow-up to his highly acclaimed "Cathedrals of Kudzu," Crowther combines lyrical language with wit and frankness, and the South--with all its burdens, curiosities, and promises--with these new essays on Southern culture.