Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Literature and the Land
Here in the Appalachian Mountains, there is a special bond between the Land, the People, and the Literature that seems to exude from this region like sap. One of the best Christmas presents I received this year, besides the little tins of gourmet coffee my mother gave me, was a book from my father and stepmother by Georgann Eubanks entitled Literary Trails of the North Carolina Mountains: A Guidebook. Many people have put together travel guides of North Carolina in the past, from touring the back roads to Hollywood film shoot locations, but this one I found delightfully different. Not only are there detailed directions, points of interest connecting place with the authors who stayed there or wrote about it, but the whole book is peppered with authors’ poems, fiction excerpts, and commentary on the place or setting. From Paula Steichen describing her grandfather Carl Sandburg, Robert Morgan describing the French Broad steamboat The Mountain Lily, to Sharyn McCrumb writing about Frankie Silver, this book runs the gamut with 18 tours of the North Carolina Mountains through the eyes of the writer. Some literature references surprised me, like the fact that Henry James once stayed in the Biltmore House and criticized it for being so isolated in such an impoverished part of the country. Some of Eubanks praises for the showcased writers or transitions into the literature excerpts do seem saccharine or forced, but this isn’t a book of literary critique, and reference books aren’t expected to wax poetic, so I can overlook it considering the monumental research from so many varied sources and the detail that went into this book. I’m looking forward to taking this book on a few adventures this summer for sure!