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Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild (2010)
by Lee Sandlin
References to this work on external resources.
Wikipedia in English
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307378519, Hardcover)John M. Barry Reviews Wicked River
John M. Barry is the author of five previous books, including the highly acclaimed and award-winning studies Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, and The Great Influenza: The story of the deadliest pandemic in history. His next book, The Creation of the American Soul, about the development of the separation of church and state, will appear in 2011. Read his review of Wicked River:
There are literally thousands of books about the Mississippi River, each of them attempting to capture its majesty. It is a tribute to the river's complexity and power that so few have succeeded. Lee Sandlin does. He writes elegantly and delivers what he promised--the story of the river in the days before engineers began their efforts to drain it of its mystery and protect us from its power. And by demythologizing both the river itself and the men and women on and along the river, by separating fact from legend, Sandlin actually makes it more majestic still.
There's plenty of humor in here, and farce. Perhaps the single story that hits the hardest, though, has nothing about it either humorous or majestic. And it could be farce, something for Mark Twain's illumination, except for the punch line. It is the story of Virgil Stewart. In a kind of American version of the Protocols of Zion, Stewart peddled a supposed plan for a white-led slave uprising that took hold of much of the lower Mississippi Valley. The beatings, murder, and torture his lies engendered only remind us how fearful and stupid humans can be at their worst.
The river today has banks lined with concrete for hundreds of miles, while dams block off tributaries and levees seal the main river in. All that constrains the river. Nonetheless, these very constraints have themselves wreaked havoc on the land the river made--physically made, by the deposit of sediment--along the modern Gulf Coast. And the power and wildness of the river which Sandlin writes about are one great flood away from unleashing. The river is, as T.S. Eliot wrote, "unhonored, unpropitiated / by the worshippers of machine. But waiting, watching and waiting."
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 14 Apr 2011 14:43:55 -0400)
A chronicle of the Mississippi River in the first half of the nineteenth century--before it was tamed by commerce and technology--draws on first-hand accounts to describe life along the river, natural and man-made disasters, acts of piracy, and cultural celebrations.
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