MISSISSIPPI SOLO: A River Quest by Eddy L. Harris


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At the age of 30, Harris developed an obsession that haunted him in dreams and daylight--to canoe down the Mississippi from source to mouth. He made it--barely--as he recounts in this charming, exuberant, silly travelogue, his first, book. Much of the appeal here comes from Harris' ordinariness. Like many people, he's been in a canoe but never attempted a major trip. Like many, he hates bugs and distrusts the dark. He seems exactly as ill-suited as anyone else to canoe the Mighty Miss, a fact confirmed when he runs aground ten yards after departing from Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota. But Harris is black, which sets him apart from many readers and lends a edge to his pleasant meanderings. He's not obsessed with race, but he flags racism when he sees it, muses much on black-white relations, and spends one night fleeing from (after shooting at) two ugly rednecks. Otherwise, his trip finds him tangled in beaver dams, eating catfish in Iowa, dropping to his knees in Twain's hometown of Hannibal, killing wild dogs, listening to a tugboat captain's confession, dodging super-tankers in Louisiana. Everyday stuff, really, brought home with a likable voice that tends to go maudlin when describing inner states (""my soul glows and I have to hang onto myself to keep from floating away"") but remains precise and poised when looking out at the surging, broad-backed river. An appealing footnote to Huckleberry Finn.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0805059032
Publisher: Nick Lyons