Novelist Horan (Goose Music, 2001, etc.) travels around the country gathering seeds dropped by trees standing on land of literary, historical, musical or military significance.
The author, a feckless though exuberant tour guide, repeatedly arrives at an author’s home (the Scott Fitzgeralds’ in Montgomery, Ala.; the Faulkners’ in Oxford, Miss.) only to find it’s closed. Sometimes, he pops onto the property anyway, a latter-day acorn-gatherer, his endless supply of Ziploc bags at the ready. Later, at home, he tries to urge his seeds, with mixed success, into germination and growth. Horan seems to know little about some of the writers he intends to honor, a notable exception being Thomas Wolfe; he makes some stunning errors—attributing one lovely epigraphic quotation to Kate Chopin’s The Awakening (it’s from her story “Mrs. Mobry’s Reason”), then a few pages later, while sauntering down Esplanade in New Orleans, fails to mention that tree-lined street is a major setting for The Awakening. The author is merciless about docents and neglects to extract from his prose dozens of clichés. After reading that Horan gets a “lump in my throat,” sees a “face lit up like a Christmas tree” and experiences a “magical moment,” readers may wish that he had learned more about fresh language from those graceful writers whose trees he adores. However, the author offers some effective moments, too. He notes with authentic disgust the mostly Caucasian staff at Mt. Vernon, and he is outraged about the decision of the National Park Service to clear majestic trees from Gettysburg to make the battlefield look more “authentic.”
A dazzling diamond of an idea set in a ring of straw.