This may be the most depressing biography I have ever read. Although I frequently considered abandoning this painful trudge through one man’s tragic descent into addiction and madness, something kept me reading.

bookWhen Leo Cowan, Jackson County’s noted historian and author, died last February just after his second book was published, I found myself reluctant to write a review of Leo’s last book in conjunction with his obituary. I am an admirer of Leo’s writing and have always felt that his “authorial voice” put him in a special category. Jackson County has a large number of writers who either write about the past and/or record their personal history through storytelling or autobiography (I guess I qualify as part of of that flock!). However, Leo Cowan is head and shoulders above all of us.

bookBack a few months ago, when Hollywood came to town, I was fascinated and when I heard that for a couple of weeks, Sylva was going to become a town in Ohio called Ebbing and that Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell were going to be policemen and that part of the dramatic action involved the fire bombing of the Ebbing Police Station (the old Massie Furniture building). I became foolish and began to make pointless trips to town in the hope of seeing some of the excitement, like the fire bombing and the fight on main street between Rockwell and Harrelson. That didn’t happen, of course. Hollywood is gone now, leaving not a rack behind. I didn’t get to see any celebrities, and although I heard that the dramatist who had written the script for “Three Billboards,” a fellow named Martin MacDonagh, had been seen on the street, no one seemed to have talked to him.

bookSeveral months ago, I was invited to join the Senior Citizen Book Club at the Jackson County Senior Citizen Center. I did so and have been delighted by the discussions which take place on the first Friday of each month at 10 a.m. So far, we have discussed some classics (John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men) and the in-depth study of the Salem witch trials (Witches by Stacy Schiff). This month’s selection is E. L. Doctorow’s novel, The March, based on General Sherman’s devastating march through Georgia in 1864.

bookThis astonishing “novel” was crafted by three multi-talented western Cherokees who live and create in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It resembles a kind of mosaic in which actual history, oral tradition and folklore are woven together using short stories, fables and myth.

bookAs you probably know, The Revenant, this astonishing survival tale was recently made into a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio in the role of Hugh Glass, one of the last mountain men. Glass was attacked by a grizzly bear while scouting for the Rocky Mountain Fur Company in the fall of 1823; witnesses later testified to the fact that Glass was horribly mauled with near-fatal wounds and was abandoned by his companions, including two men who had dug a grave and had agreed to tend him until he died. Against all odds, Glass did not die and lived to launch an epic quest for revenge.

bookBack in 1954, when I was a freshman at Western Carolina Teachers College (now WCU), the college’s drama department launched a production of The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

bookIn this story, I am God. — Frank Lloyd Wright

The title of this nonfiction work, Death in a Prairie House, is misleading since it suggests that it is the latest offering from a crime fiction writer. While the title is appropriate, the actual subject discussed by William R. Drennan is much more. It is one of the most provocative mysteries in the history of American crime: the murders of seven people on August 5, 1914, in Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed “love nest, “Taliesin” in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

book“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” 

— Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Early in this astonishing autobiography, Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes a comment about the problems the he has experienced when writing about the past. He notes: nostalgia colors the way we recall the past because frequently, it has “erased the bad memories and magnified the good ones.”

bookHurricane Katrina spawned an awesome number of literary works, and it may be that, given sufficient time to determine the full merits of Jesmyn Ward’s novel, Salvage the Bones, her work may be the most worthy. 

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