cover image Gather at the River: Note from the Post-Millennial South

Gather at the River: Note from the Post-Millennial South

Hal Crowther, . . Louisiana State Univ., $26.95 (165pp) ISBN 978-0-8071-3100-8

Part curmudgeon, part humorist and all Southerner, syndicated columnist Crowther declaims in his characteristically droll way on matters Southern, from Thomas Wolfe, Larry Brown and Eudora Welty to Dolly Parton, Jesse Helms and art historian Kirk Varnedoe. He probes how the South has changed in its confrontations with the 21st century and how it has stayed the same. These lucid and probing dispatches reveal the depth of the South's reluctance to tell about itself to outsiders and its tendency toward sly storytelling to mask its secrets. But, Crowther continues, nowhere is there an "innocent savage who lives an unexamined life on the thin ice of unexamined history, who unwraps his darkest secrets for any rank stranger with a tape recorder." On music, Crowther celebrates the purity of the bluegrass in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou? ("After you've heard Alison Krauss and Ralph Stanley, can you go back to Faith Hill and Tim McGraw?") and holds up Dolly Parton as an authentic Southerner ("beneath a blinding surface of deliberate, exaggerated, self-satirizing artifice lurks one of the most engagingly authentic individuals in the Nashville pantheon"). Crowther's rollicking, raucous essays offer probing insights into the mind and manners of the New South. (Sept.)