Friday, October 23, 2015

Porcher's Creek and Above the Fall Line

Below are two mini-reviews of books recently read.  I am struggling with allergies (or a head-cold) but hopefully will be able to get out and sail tomorrow.  The salt water should do me some good!

 John Leland, Porcher's Creek: Lives between the Tides (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002), 114 pages

Leland is a professor at Virginia Military Institute, but grew up in the tidal waters north of Charleston, South Carolina.  This book lovely describes the relationship between the marsh and the people who lived by it along with the changes that have occurred from father's generation (and generations before that) to his son’s generation.  It is a sad because with time comes loss, as Leland moves from the marsh to the highlands of Virginia and learns that his attempts to plant native trees from his childhood are not successful.  But he keep going back, partly to share the unique environment with his son.  But the marsh land is being developed and with more access there is a different type of loss for those who depended on the water for a livelihood. He writes about the effects of DDT and how the marsh came back afterwards, but there are new threats.

Like Leland, I grew up in a similar setting when time was often set by tides and fishing, crabbing and oystering was a fact of life.  He writes about the Goat Man who lived on a barrier island and I was reminded of the Fort Fisher hermit.  There is a chapter devoted to my favorite tree, the longleaf pine and he tells of driving through roads of the trees in Francis Marion National Park that were "as straight as an old maid's back in church" and how, when you arrive in "a uncut stand of old growth longleaf, you've come as close to paradise as you will this side of the grave."  Leland tells great stories utilizes wonderful metaphors and sharing many of his father's tall-tales. He is also able to build many of his on cycles: generational, tidal, day and night.

A favorite quote:  "[W]hat politician will resist the siren call to see our birthrights for a mess of pottage."  (61)
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Amy Blackmarr, Above the Fall Line: The Trail from White Pine Cabin  (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2003) 140 pages

This is the third book I've read by Blackmarr.  The books form sort of a trilogy centered around three remote houses/cabins in which she lived during a period of her life in which she begins to focus on her writing.  In her first book, Going to Ground, Blackmarr leaves the Midwest and moves back to Southern Georgia where she moves into her grandfather's old fishing shack while she gets her life back together.  In the second book, House of Steps, she returns to Kansas to work on a PhD.  Now, she's back in Georgia to recover after having failed her oral comprehensive exams.  She settles into a small cabin owned by her uncle in the Georgia Mountains.  Throughout each book, there are hauntings of ex-boyfriends and ex-husbands.  Blackmarr seems to find her best companionship with her dogs, whom she loves and captures their personality in her writing.  But even with our four-legged friends, there can be loss as they die.  Although I did find a "woe-is-me" element in this book, I appreciate the way she is able to enjoy and find hope in her natural surroundings.  Having hiked through North Georgia along the Appalachian Trail (which ran just west of her cabin), her descriptions of the land and the people rang true.  She speaks of chesterdrawers, boiled peanuts, and spontaneous generosity and I nodded my head in agreement.  I enjoyed reading the book and was relieved at the end to learn that on her second try, she did pass her exams and, I suppose, is now Dr. Blackmarr.  I am not sure what has happened to her. It appears she has written only one more book that deals with ghosts in the Georgia gold-mining town of Dahlonega (not far from this cabin).  That book was published nearly a decade ago and I haven't found any other books or articles published by her (at least under this name). 

Favorite quote (and a candidate for the sentence with the most use of colons in the modern world):  "So you can keep this truth in your mind: that wherever you go, and whatever you're up to, there are two things that never die no matter what you believe, and no matter what the weather:  there is all this kudzu down here in Georgia, and there is love. (130)


To read my review of Going to Ground, click here.  Both Going to Ground and Above the Fall Line have appeared on lists of the top 25 books all Georgians should read.

45 comments:

  1. Oftentimes, the best books are the ones you can relate to. Neat to have a list of books for your state!

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    1. Every state and region has books and authors and when I move to a new place, I always look to see what's available.

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  2. I've visited a gold mine in Dahlonega. I took the kids. It was fascinating, and we heard some stories about the ghosts.

    Both books sound good!

    (Thanks for your nice comments about my recital clip!)

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    1. I have been to Dahlonega and was interested in the mining there (but it wasn't the first gold rush in America as that was in NC in the late 18th Century).

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  3. I enjoyed reading Going to Ground (on your recommendation) - I just requested the other two from the library. The library catalog says she has an article in an anthology called Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality - published in 2012.

    Hope you feel better soon!

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    1. Thanks, I am feeling better, but even better knowing that someone took one of my recommendations and liked it!

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  4. Replies
    1. Yes, especially if you have an interest in nature or in the region

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  5. Been too long since I've read a few nature related books like these. I need to pick some up.

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    1. Porcher's Creek isn't that different from the gulf--that area in-between the land and sea

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    1. I love the idea of 25 books a Georgian should read. As much as I love it here, I haven't read many books based in Vermont. The World According to Garp comes to mind.

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  7. These both sound so interesting! I've found WIFI for a few minutes, so thought I'd pop in and say, see you again in Dec if not before!

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    1. Have a great time traveling and hope you get wifi and let us know what's up!

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  8. These both sound so interesting! I've found WIFI for a few minutes, so thought I'd pop in and say, see you again in Dec if not before!

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  9. They both sound like good books. Thanks for letting us know about them. Hope your cold or allergies is better.

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  10. Sound like good reads, the books. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

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    1. They are--I'd like to hear from you about good books on Cuba!

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  11. Thank you for the book reviews. I think that I would enjoy them both as I like true stories. I hope you were able to go sailing and are feeling better.

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    1. I did sail and paid for it as my allergies became a full head cold...

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  12. these sounds like interesting books, thanks for the reviews

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    1. The nature aspect of both books might be of interest to you.

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  13. No matter when and where you started seeing life about you it is never the same when you try to return to that old home, Lord knows i have seen a multitude of changes without having gone anywhere in 30 or so years. And yes there is Kudzu in Georgia.

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    1. Thankfully, you don't see as much kudzu along the coast as you do inland in the piedmont and mountain regions

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  14. Why do you have so many authors from that area and from that era. Is it due to the sale of land to developers to build places like Myrtle Beach by their parents and then them getting a good education as a result. Or is there another 'something in the water' reason.

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    1. I think that there South produces more authors is because the oral/storytelling culture (that is dying out). That is also true for the inter-mountain west... Somewhere I read that Mississippi has the highest per capita number of authors and also the highest illiteracy rate--go figure

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  15. Book reviews are so helpful for so many. Good job! I hope your head cold or allergies clear up before too long.

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  16. Wonderful review, you always know just how to send me in search of these authors and their books! I just adore that quote about a straight back!

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    1. She does sprinkle her prose with a number of interesting metaphors

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  17. I love making connections with a book, and I make many whether it's with setting or circumstances.

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    1. Florida have a number of good authors, too. I love Carl Haaisen and Dave Barry

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  18. I love that quote at the end. I want that framed on my wall.

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    1. Which quote? If you print it out and place it on your wall, you'll have to let us see!

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  19. I love that quote at the end. I want that framed on my wall.

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  20. Very nice reads.

    Thanks for sharing!
    V:)
    http://vsreads.com

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  21. Porcher's Creek sounds Pat Conroyesque (that's a good thing).

    Love,
    Janie

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  22. The exploration between the land and the people sounds like a compelling read. As a mother of young children, I have noticed the loss of the "wild" that I experienced as a child...I fear that with the loss of the wild we also loss some sense of wonder, too...

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  23. Virginia (Tidewater area) was my early home and then after graduate school, we moved to the Charleston area. Salt water is in my blood for sure. Jack Leland is very good. Best to you, fellow sailor.

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  24. I like that no matter where you live you check out the books for the region, so do I.
    When I moved back to Tucson, I already knew a lot about my state and region. When I was in school here we learned so much about this area not like today's students. Anyways when I moved back to Tucson, right after making bed and buying food, I went to Borders and looked at the local section and walked away with 5 books.
    Life is great !

    cheers, parsnip

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  25. My to read list is already impossible, so I probably will never read these two, but they do sound interesting. Thanks!

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