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The Kentucky Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Writing in the Bluegrass State written by Wade Hall


The Kentucky Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Writing in the Bluegrass State written by Wade Hall


Long before the official establishment of the Commonwealth, intrepid pioneers ventured west of the Allegheny Mountains into an expansive, alluring wilderness that they began to call Kentucky. After blazing trails, clearing plots, and surviving innumerable challenges, a few adventurers found time to pen celebratory tributes to their new homeland. In the two centuries that followed, many of the world's finest writers, both native Kentuckians and visitors, have paid homage to the Bluegrass State with the written word. In The Kentucky Anthology, acclaimed author and literary historian Wade Hall has assembled an unprecedented and comprehensive compilation of writings pertaining to Kentucky and its land, people, and culture. Hall's introductions to each author frame both popular and lesser-known selections in a historical context. He examines the major cultural and political developments in the history of the Commonwealth, finding both parallels and marked distinctions between Kentucky and the rest of the United States. While honoring the heritage of Kentucky in all its glory, Hall does not blithely turn away from the state's most troubling episodes and institutions such as racism, slavery, and war. Hall also builds the argument, bolstered by the strength and significance of the collected writings, that Kentucky's best writers compare favorably with the finest in the world. Many of the authors presented here remain universally renowned and beloved, while others have faded into the tides of time, waiting for rediscovery. Together, they guide the reader on a literary tour of Kentucky, from the mines to the rivers and from the deepest hollows to the highest peaks. The Kentucky Anthology traces the interests and aspirations, the achievements and failures and the comedies and tragedies that have filled the lives of generations of Kentuckians. These diaries, letters, speeches, essays, poems, and stories bring history brilliantly to life. Jesse Stuart once wrote, "If these United States can be called a body, Kentucky can be called its heart." The Kentucky Anthology captures the rhythm and spirit of that heart in the words of its most remarkable chroniclers.


For over two hundred years, Kentucky has inspired many of the nation's finest writers, both natives of the Bluegrass State and outsiders who were entranced by its rich natural wonders and culture. Now, for the first time, celebrated Kentucky literary historian Wade Hall has assembled a comprehensive collection of writings embodying the hopes, concerns, and aspirations that have made the state unique and yet so typically American. Hunters, soldiers, adventurers, tourists, farmers, lawyers, preachers, educators, journalists, historians, playwrights, poets, and novelists offer readers an unparalleled literary tour of Kentucky. Early descriptive and political writings by such figures as George Rogers Clark, John James Audubon, and Henry Clay give way to the flourishing body of poetry and fiction by such authors as John Fox Jr., Irvin S. Cobb, James Lane Allen, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, and Robert Penn Warren. The concerns of contemporary nationally known Kentucky writers Bobbie Ann Mason, Silas House, Sena Jeter Naslund, Sue Grafton, Frank X Walker, Barbara Kingsolver, and Maurice Manning center on the struggle to reconcile the place they call home with an increasingly global community. The Kentucky Anthology is the ultimate celebration of the state's literary heritage, which Wendell Berry once described as "local life aware of itself."

Library Journal

Literary historian Hall (The Rest of the Dream; Passing for Black) has assembled an expansive collection of diary excerpts, letters, speeches, essays, stories, and poems about Kentucky that spans the state's settlement up through the present day. The usual touchstones of Appalachian culture are abundant here: frontier and rural life, slavery, war and loss, old-time religion, poverty, and environmental depredation. Prominent figures, writers and otherwise, make appearances, including John James Audubon, Abraham Lincoln, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Harriette Simpson Arnow, Henry Clay, Jesse Stuart, Robert Penn Warren, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Wendell Berry. But Hall includes some delightful surprises as well. A nine-year-old Hunter S. Thompson relates a childhood prank involving a mailbox, a school bus, and the FBI. Louisville native Muhammad Ali recalls suffering racial discrimination and violence in his hometown, even as a celebrity Olympic gold medal winner. Mystery writer Sue Grafton's detective-protagonist Kinsey Millhone acutely observes the small-town manners and urban seediness of Louisville during an investigation. What emerges is truly a patchwork quilt of experience and fiction that shows us how integral Kentucky is to the geography of the American imagination. Recommended for large public and academic libraries, especially those supporting Appalachian literature collections.-Lee Ehlers, Greenville Cty. Lib. Syst., SC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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