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Gather at the River

Notes from the Post-Millennial South

Southern Literary Studies

184 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / None

ebook available

Literature - American

  Hardcover / 9780807131008 / September 2005

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Finalist

To read Hal Crowther is to find yourself agreeing with views on topics you never knew you cared so much about. In Gather at the River, Crowther extends the wide-angle vision of Southern life presented in his highly acclaimed collection Cathedrals of Kudzu. He cuts to the heart of recent political, religious, and cultural issues but pauses to appreciate the sweet things that the South has to offer, like music, baseball, great writers, and strong women.

Some of these essays invite debate. Crowther gives a balanced perspective on the tragedy of the Branch Davidians at Waco, shedding light on a different world of religiosity and revealing urban media prejudices for what they are. He describes the unique heroism of a fallen Marine in the Iraq war, a war fought by one class and promoted by another. And his solution to racial conflict—interracial procreation—will jump-start readers' sensibilities.

In other chapters, Crowther discusses the grim portrayal of the South in early film and the triumphs of Southern music. His literary essays include appreciations of William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Elizabeth Spencer, and Wendell Berry, and a biting lampoon of exhibitionist memoirs. Among the Southerners Crowther profiles with pride are the art historian and Museum of Modern Art curator Kirk Varnedoe; the great, cursed baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson; the curmudgeonly realist H. L. Mencken; and the singer Dolly Parton, whose candid artifice inspires the author's litmus test for Southern authenticity.

Hal Crowther is a syndicated columnist, essayist, and critic, whose work appears regularly in the Oxford American, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Independent Weekly, and Progressive Populist, among many other publications. In former years, he was a staff writer for Time and media editor for Newsweek. He was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Commentary in 2003 and winner of the H. L. Mencken Writing Award from the Baltimore Sun. His previous books are Unarmed but Dangerous and Cathedrals of Kudzu: A Personal Landscape of the South, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award and the Fellowship of Southern Writers Award for Nonfiction. He lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina, with his wife, the novelist Lee Smith.

Review Quotes for Gather at the River

In the writing of Hal Crowther, lyrical language joins wit and frankness, and the South—with all its burdens, curiosities, and promises—comes vividly into view. Gather at the River enhances Crowther's reputation as one of the most eloquent and original observers of Southern letters, morals, and manners. “Don't read Hal Crowther. He's addictive. Once you start you can't stop. You'll wind up walking in his shoes, believing everything he says. Beware.”—James Still

“Dear Hal . . . You are a great writer."—Dolly Parton

“Crowther writes prose the way Stevie Ray Vaughan played guitar: with inexplicable passion, punctuated by explosive bursts of finger picking laid down over an inviting carpet of swampy soul.”—James L. DickersonBookPage

“Crowther wields words the way Errol Flynn handled a sword. To read him is like watching Michael Jordan dunk.”—Ben SteelmanWilmington Star-News

“Thank the Lord for people like Hal Crowther. His is the rare voice in the choir that is not only loud but can carry a tune. . . . But you get the feeling Crowther is happiest with a straight razor in his hand. Don't get him mad. The boy will cut you.”—Tommy TomlinsonCharlotte Observer

“Crowther has that gift to which every writer aspires: the ability to pull a thought, a feeling, an opinion, out of the recesses of our hearts before we even know it's there, to make us recognize it and then to articulate it better than we could ever hope to express it for ourselves. There's something Old Testament about Crowther's voice, something fine and unbowed.”—Susanna Rodell, Raleigh News and Observer

“I once wrote a column for this newspaper, sharing editorial space with Hal Crowther. This must have been what the other Yankees felt like on the team with Babe Ruth.”—Frye GaillardCreative Loafing

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