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Workshops - Book Reviews


Eliot, T.S.
The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909-1950
Harcourt, Brace & World
Faulkner, William
Old Man
1931, Random House
Hughes, Langston
Selected Poems: Langston Hughes
1959, Vintage Books
Snyder, Gary
Mountains and Rivers Without End
1996, Counterpoint
Twain, Mark
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Whitman, Walt
Leaves of Grass


Audubon, John James
Dileneations of American Scenery and Character
Audubon, John James
Audubon's America: The Narratives and Experiences of John James Audubon
Audubon, John James
The Birds of America
Bartram, William
Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East and West Florida
Artist, writer, botanist, gardener, naturalist, intrepid wilderness explorer, and self-styled "Philosophical Pilgrim," William Bartram (1739-1823) was an extraordinary figure in eighteenth-century American life. The first American to devote his entire life to what now call the environment, Bartam was the most significant American nature writer before Thoreau and a nature artist who rivals Audubon. He was also a pioneering ethnographer whose works are a crucial source of study of the Indian cultures of southeastern America. Thoreau, Emerson, Cooper, Chateaubriand, Wordsworth and Colerdige (in "Kubla Khan") drew extensively from Bartram's Travels, which was the most influential piece of American nature writing before Walden.
Barry, John M.
Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How it Changed America
1997, Simon & Schuster
The Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the worst natural disaster in U.S. history. It killed more than 1,000 people and left almost a million homeless from Cairo, Illinois to New Orleans, and had a far-reaching impact on American Society, as revealed in Mr. Barry's gripping grassroots epic, redolent with gothic passions of the Old South. RISING TIDE is an extraordinary tale of greed, power, politics, racial conflict and bureaucratic incompetence. It begins in the 1870s as two influential engineers - James Eads, who built a Mississippi-spanning bridge in St. Louis, and Army surveyor Andrew Humphreys - battle over how to control the wild, erratic river. The focus then shifts to Mississippi's powerful Percy family - to railroad magnate W.A. Percy, pioneer of the sharecropping system; to his son LeRoy, banker, planter, senator who protected blacks against demagogues and the Klu Klux Klan; to poet and lawyer Will (LeRoy's son), to novelist Walker Percy, Will's blood cousin and adopted son. A cast of power-hungry villains and crusading reformist heroes rounds out this momentous chronicle, which revisits the shaping of the Mississippi Delta, and its great art form, the Delta Blues, and modern America.
Blair, Walter (with Franklin J. Meine)
Mike Fink: King of the Mississippi Keelboatmen
1933, Henry Holt & Co.
Botkin, B. A.
A Treasury of Mississippi River Folklore: Stories, Ballads and traditions of the Mid-American River Country
1955, Crown Publishers
Bragg, Marion
Historic Names and Places on the Lower Mississippi River
1977, Mississippi River Commission
A mile-by-mile description of the history behind the names and places and islands of the lower Mississippi. An excellent reference for any river-goer, from the tugboat pilot to the canoeist, with descriptions like:
"WATERPROOF, LOUISIANA. Mile 381.0 AHP, Map 37. Left Bank, descending. During one of the Mississippi's devastating floods, the people of one flooded rural community read a newspaper report that told them that everything in their whole region was under water "except one waterproof knoll." When the flood subsided, the community moved itself to the knoll, and the town acquired the name of Waterproof. It was a name that gave the hapless reporter of another newspaper some embarrassing moments a few years later when he reported a local tragedy under the headline that read: "FOUR WATERPROOF PEOPLE DROWN."
Includes descriptions of the old channel, and how it became the new, through cut-offs, crevasses and other man made & natural occurrences. My only criticism: too much of it revolves around the Civil War.
Brain, Jeffrey P.
The Tunica-Biloxi
1990, Chelsea House
Daniel, Pete
Deep'n as it Come: The 1927 Mississippi River Flood
1996, Oxford University Press
Eifert, Virginia
Wild Life of the Mississippi
1959, Dodd, Mead & Co.
Eifert, Virginia
Of Men and Rivers
1966, Dodd, Mead & Co.
Gentleman of Elva
The Narrative of the Expedition of Hernando de Soto
Translated by Buckingham Smith
The expedition of De Soto was the first extensive exploration of at what became at least six of the Southern states, and contain the earliest written descriptions of the nations of the Choctaws, the Cherokees, the Creeks, and the Seminoles; these narratives also describe the discovery of the Mississippi River and the story of the first voyage upon it by the Europeans. These narratives were drawn up by one of the Portuguese gentleman who joined it from the town of Elvas, which lies just across the boundary from the Spanish city of Badajos, where De Soto was well known. Nothing more is known about this gentleman, not even his name, but his account is recognized by historians as the most trustworthy detailed account of the expedition.

When De Soto left Quiz-Quiz (site now occupied by Clarksdale, Mississippi), he reached "the great River" (referred to as "El Rio Grande"), and put his men to work building boats to cross it. "He went to look at the river, and saw near it there was much timber of which the piraguas might be made, and a good situation in which the camp might be placed." It took thirty days to build four "piragauas." The current was so "stiff" that they found it necessary to go "up along the side of the river a quarter of a league, and in passing they were carried down, so as to land opposite the camp..." By the time the sun was up "two hours high," De Soto's men had become the first white men to cross the Mississippi, and Elvas made the first observations about its nature:

"The distance [across the river] was near half a league: a man could not be told, whether he were a man or something else, from the other side. The stream was swift and very deep; the water, always flowing turbidly, brought along from above many trees and much timber, driven onward by its force. There were fish of several sorts, the greater part differing from those of the fresh waters of Spain, as will be told hereafter..."
Hamilton, Mary
Trials of the Earth
1992, U. Press of Mississippi
Harris, Eddy L.
Mississippi Solo: A River Quest
1989, Perennial Library
The Mississippi River is a demanding River. There are many who have risen to its challenge, and others who have failed or lost their lives in trying. Eddy Harris was born and raised in St. Louis, and his imagination early captured by the waters running through the city, "...Mighty, muddy, dangerous, rebellious, and yet a strong, fathering kind of river." At age thirty, still a greenhorn in the wilderness, he decided to canoe the river, in his words, "to find out what I was made of." It was late in the season when he started, and he had no camping gear, but his hardest trials to overcome were his fears and criticism from friends and family. Mr. Harris is black, and black men just don't do this kind of thing in our society. Quickly, however, the river flows over all prejudices and pre-conceived notions, and Mr. Harris' journey becomes the story of a man and a river flowing through America at the end of the twenty-first century. This is a story of a dreamer and the dream come to reality, the reality of the sometimes grotesque, sometimes frightening, and sometimes remarkably clear in the beautiful way of the Mississippi.
La Salle, Sieur Robert Cavelier
Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley
(published in 1852 by John Gilmary Shea)


LaSalle, the Mississippi, and the Gulf: Three Primary Documents
(1987, Texas A&M U. Press, edited by Robert S. Weddle)
Three Centuries after the French explorer LaSalle was murdered in the Texas wilds, this volume presents translations of three obscure documents that broaden the view of the man and his exploits. In two documents, written by La Salle's engineer Minet ("Voyage made from Canada Inland Going Southward in the Year 1682," and "Journal of Our Voyage to the Gulf of Mexico") is described La Salle's 1682 exploration of the Mississippi River and his 1685 voyage to the Gulf of Mexico.
Leseur, Charles Alexander
America Mississippi
1969, Mid-South Press (Ed. By James Register)
Drawings and descriptions of the Lower Mississippi by Charles Alexander Leseur. B. in 1778 in Le Havre, France, Leseur settled down in New Harmony, Indidana, where he resided with a group of naturalists and educators. Pencil sketches in the flavor of DaVinci, made during his many flatboat journeys along the river.
Lockwood, C.C.
Around the Bend: a Mississippi River Adventure
1998, Louisiana State University Press
10"x12", 154 pages, 112 pages of color photographs
In the Fall of 1997 nature photographer C.C. Lockwood floated the Mississippi in a "baloney boat," a grand canyon style pontoon boat thirty seven feet long and fourteen wide "so I wasn't worried about running not logs." With what name did he christen the baloney boat? The Huck (yawn). Born and raised in Baton Rouge, the fear of the river had inspired him to find a craft with the biggest bumpers around. He was able to stow enough food for the entire trip. (Although the narrow width of the first three hundred miles of the journey forced him to use a canoe for that section). Armed with his camera, a cell phone and a laptop computer, and not just one outboard motor, but a second spare, the techno-adventurer left Minnesota on September 13 with stated itinerary to reach the gulf on November 13, on which date he indeed arrived (yawn). Shooting the Mississippi isn't as simple as taking a photo of a family reunion. Everything is so big, so wide, so overwhelming. Mr. Lockwood's panoramas are about as good as they get. Unfortunately, National Geographic style writing threatens to capsize the journey through his text. It sticks mostly to the story on the Upper Mississippi. (yawn) Fortunately you don't have to wade very far before reaching the tantalizing full-page glossy pix that follow.
Marquette, Father Jacques
Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610 - 1791
Edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites
Meredith, Robert (and E. Brooks Smith)
Exploring the Great River
1969, Little, Brown & Co.
Murray, John A.
The River Reader
1998, Nature Conservancy
If you ever had a doubt that America is a nation of great rivers, that will soon be erased by excerpts from some of her greatest writers -- including John James Audubon, William Bartram, Rick Bass, Joseph Conrad, Annie Dillard, Ernest Hemingway, Meriwether Lewis, Barry Lopez, Harry Middleton, Kathleen Dean Moore, John Wesley Powell, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry David Thoreau and Mark Twain - who share their visions of rivers throughout the world from the raging Amazon to the mile-wide Mississippi. Although each piece leaves you wanting more, the good news is that you can go find the original unabridged text and read on! The first in a series of collaborations between the Nature Conservancy and Lyons Press.
Percy, William Alexander
Lanterns on the Levee
1941, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc
Samuel, Ray (with Leonard V. Huber and Warren C. Ogden)
Tales of the Mississippi
1955 by the authors
Sandburg, Carl
Abraham Lincoln, The Prairie Years
1926, Harcourt, Brace & Company
Schwenk, Theodor
Sensitive Chaos: The Creation of Flowing Forms in Water and Air
1965, Rudolf Steiner Press
Severin, Timothy
Explorers of the Mississippi
1967, Alfred A. Knopf
A history of the conquistadors, voyageurs, and charlatans who opened up and exploited the Father of Waters. In his research, which started at the U. of California, Berkeley, and took him to the James Bell Collection at the University of Minnesota, Mr. Severin embarked in a canoe at Lake Itasca and floated to New Orleans to truly appreciate the difficulties that the Mississippi explorers had endured. He was obliged to change vessels when Sauk Rapids obliterated his canoe. He doggedly continued on down to the Gulf by "decrepit launch."
Twain, Mark
Life on the Mississippi

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