Engaging fish-out-of-water memories—think Green Acres but much better—that should appeal to anyone with fantasies about...

The Awkward Ozarker

A CURIOUS TALE OF SELF-REINVENTION IN A SCANTILY SETTLED LAND

A newspaper columnist shares humorous stories of being a “city slicker” in the country.

Native Arkansan Hurt (Healer’s Twilight, 2000) is no stranger to the “hillbilly” tag that’s typically attached to Arkansas in general and the Ozarks in particular. That awareness gives his homespun memoir much of its charm. It has an easygoing, regional appeal that reflects the author’s background as a columnist whose credits range from the Jonesboro Sun in Arkansas to the Wall Street Journal. Hurt and his wife are flatlanders from the part of Arkansas that’s not the Ozarks, but they still ended up the owners of a rustic—to put it kindly—cabin on 27 acres of land on Hogback Mountain. As he notes, “Chance and serendipity play a larger role in our lives than we often care to admit, and this is what makes things so interesting and unpredictable.” He’s not kidding: consider a town meeting he describes, which includes “a quick demo on making a filter from a tin can and piece of wire, plus a refresher course in how to properly use a whistle” and the passing around of a book titled Mushrooming Without Fear. At the same time, the author is fiercely protective of his home: he can make fun of local follies, such as a medieval castle that a local started and never finished, but he’s not amused when the New York Times publishes “a snarky article” titled “Fixer-Upper. Ozarks Views. Vassals Welcome.” Hurt writes with a certain courtliness and a dry sense of humor; he freely admits that he and his wife are precisely the sort of “yuppie homesteaders” targeted by the Williams-Sonoma catalog, with its “ever-so-cute chicken coop made of red cedar.” Still, the book’s main thread is how connected the author feels to the Arkansas mountains. One criticism of the memoir is that some stories just dribble away without resolution, such as one about a young woman in an orange Camaro who barrels down a highway and into a ditch. Hurt checks on her; she’s OK and explains that she’s en route to file her marriage license—and that’s about it. But for the most part, the author makes good company.

Engaging fish-out-of-water memories—think Green Acres but much better—that should appeal to anyone with fantasies about trading bright city lights for the back country.

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9973256-0-7

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Fairbourne Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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