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An Ozark Chronicle
Paddy McGann, Sharp Snaffles, and Bill Bauldy
The twelfth volume in the ongoing Arkansas Edition of the works of William Gilmore Simms, Backwoods Tales brings together three of the best examples of his comic writing. All were written during the last decade of Simms’s life, when he had become a master of his craft. These three tales belong in the tradition of southern backwoods humor, a genre that flourished before the Civil War and produced classic tales by such authors as George Washington Harris, Johnson Jones Hooper, and Thomas Bangs Thorpe. Paddy McGann, “Sharp Snaffles,” and “Bill Bauldy” are all frame tales, told by rustic narrators in authentic dialect, with frequent pauses for libation and comment. These three pieces of writing, never before published together, stand among the best examples of American humor of the nineteenth century.
The Bad Samaritan is set in a kleptomaniac and highly corrupt imaginary African country called Ewawa. Due to mismanagement, financial institutions collapse. Salaries are slashed and there is unprecedented unemployment leading to country exodus. Professor Esole and his wife are not only aggrieved by the salary slashes, but also by the dubious closure of the Post Office Savings Bank with their savings. Desperate for money, they resort to borrowing from private sources at exorbitant interest rates. Esole toddles into politics with the aim of righting things. Will his naÔve approach to politics make or mar?
Incredible Tales of a Modern Bulgarian
Open this book and you are in Door County, Wisconsin, strolling down Coot Lake Road—a one-lane, dead-end gravel track just a few miles from Baileys Harbor and the Lake Michigan shore. Along the way you meet George and Helen O’Malley, who are growing old gracefully. Russell, their brave and empathetic golden retriever, wags hello and offers you a paw to shake.
The Olsons and the Berges live just down the road. Bump Olson is the local septic tank pumper and birdwatcher extraordinaire, and Hans Berge, MD, PhD, was at one time the only Norwegian psychiatrist in Chicago—or so he says. In a cottage out by the highway, you may spot Lloyd Barnes, ex–Tennessee state trooper, hound fancier, and local man of mystery. Uncle Petter Sorenson, visiting from Grand Forks, takes the polar bear plunge at Jacksonport. Around the neighborhood you’ll meet Deputy Doug, the flirtatious cellist Debbie Dombrowski, and Italian import Rosa Zamboni.
Dave Crehore’s sketches of life on the Door peninsula also expound on:
• the delights of codfish pizza
• how to insult Canadians
• what to expect at your fiftieth high school reunion
• how to lose a school board election
• the prevention of creeping old-fogyism
• Marilyn, a buxom eight-pound smallmouth bass
• and what goes on in the winter, when no one is there.
It is 1969 and China is in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. The Tao family is banished to the countryside, forced to leave comfortable lives in Nanjing to be reeducated in the true nature of the revolution by the peasants of Sanyu village. The parents face exile with stoicism and teach their son to embrace reeducation wholeheartedly. Is this simple pragmatism, an attempt to protect the boy and ensure his future? Or do the banished cadres really cling to their belief in their leaders and the ideals of the Revolution? These questions remain tantalizingly unanswered in this prize-winning first novel.
Rhetorics of Citizenship, Contagion, and Resistance
Contemporary Wisconsin Fiction
The Battle-Ground, Ellen Glasgow's fourth novel, was her first bestseller, with more than 21,000 copies sold in just two weeks. The novel committed her to a project almost unparalleled in American literary history: a novelistic meditation on the South from the decade before the Confederacy to the middle of the 20th century. The Battle-Ground speaks of a South before and during the Civil War in its struggles to become part of a nation still in the making. The overthrow of the aristocratic tradition, the transfer of hereditary power to a rural underclass, the continued disenfranchisement of African Americans, and the evolving status of women--these topics, which came to bind the more than a dozen volumes of Glasgow's self-styled "social history," initially coalesced in The Battle-Ground.
The Battle-Ground conspicuously departs from the tradition of Southern romances popularized by Thomas Nelson Page, and contemporary reviewers praised the book for its historical accuracy. Glasgow, an ardent Anglophile, bragged that military officers in Great Britain studied its descriptions of battle. With her, realism had not only crossed the Atlantic, it had "crossed the Potomac."
But Glasgow never sensationalizes the Civil War, whose bloodiest scenes she flanks with domestic officers, the sharing of rations, the warmth of camp, and reminders of home. Her vision of the war centers less on its corruption or barbarity than on its occasions for small decencies and their power of humanization. Glasgow cannot separate the war from its greater social implications--it is a place, as her title suggests, that tests the soul of a nation as well as individual men and women. The importance of The Battle-Ground in Southern literary history cannot be overemphasized, for Glasgow's reimagining of the Civil War had a profound impact on the next generation of Southern writers, including Allen Tate, Stark Young, and Margaret Mitchell.