Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild

Lee Sandlin. Pantheon, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-307-37851-4
In this love song to the Mississippi river, Chicago journalist Sandlin winds through mythology and history, from the early 19th century, when the Chippewa peopled its banks, to the metamorphosed post-Civil War river culture. In first-time author Sandlin's hands, the Mississippi, splitting two expanses of land, is itself a split entity: a terrible destroyer that sent boats into "wild convulsions as the men clung on desperately"; a road to wealth; a holy ground; a hotspot for gamblers and prostitutes; a place loaded with violence and art. Sandlin also covers the river's legendary presence in American literature, specifically in the fiction of Mark Twain. Rather than seeing the Mississippi as merely a geographical feature, the author focuses on the river as a muse, a myth, and as a catalyst of culture. Sandlin's enthusiasm is infectious and his story is as vivid as that of any river-dweller tall tale; social historians and fans of Americana alike will traverse the book with the same sense of adventure as Huckleberry Finn rafting the river. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 05/02/2011
Release date: 10/01/2010
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4561-3066-4
Open Ebook - 215 pages - 978-0-307-37951-1
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-307-47357-8
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