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Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide (2019)

by Tony Horwitz

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2211389,252 (4.03)61
"The author retraces Frederick Law Olmsted's journey across the American South in the 1850s, on the eve of the Civil War. Olmsted roamed eleven states and six thousand miles, and the New York Times published his dispatches about slavery and its defenders. More than 150 years later, Tony Horwitz followed Olmsted's route, and whenever possible his mode of transport--rail, riverboats, in the saddle--through Appalachia, down the Ohio and Mississippi, through Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and across Texas to the Rio Grande, discovering and reporting on vestiges of what Olmsted called the Cotton Kingdom"--… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
This book was the best book I have read so far this year, and it was entertaining as well as humorous. Being a Texan, I already knew quite a bit of the history of South Texas including the ambush of the German Socialist that tried to defect to the Union side. The tragic part of the book is that this was Tony Horwitz's last book as he passed away unexpectedly right after it was published. ( )
  kerryp | Jul 4, 2020 |
Actually, this book was not very interesting. Being reasonably familiar with the areas described in the journey, I found the characters dull and boring. Being a mudder from Arkansas does not make a person interesting. Having read four of Horwitz’ books, I found this to be easily his least enjoyable. Sorry to hear that it was also his last....Finished 29.05.2020 at the NR. ( )
  untraveller | Jun 13, 2020 |
Tony Horwitz recreates the journey that Frederick Law Olmsted took through the South as a travel reporter for the NY Times 160 years ago. He recreates the journey as the journeyman himself, although, the road he is searching for is often now a developed subdivision, the historic site is now in the midst of a strip mall or the public means of transportation is long gone. But, Tony makes do, and has written a wonderful book drawing on the parallels of Olmsted's trip and speaking with as many people as he can to draw a picture of the views of modern day Southerners. Highlights were the times he was accompanied by his brother and his friend from Australia. They were laugh out loud funny.

I am very distressed to learn via this page that Tony Horwitz died while promoting this book. He was an extremely gifted writer, with an eclectic set of interests that allowed him, it seems to me, to make a life pursuing those interests and have us come along for the trip. He was way too young. My deepest condolences to his family. ( )
  ilovemycat1 | Jun 6, 2020 |
wonderful book he writes very well and accurately about the south - my wife and i drove this area many times. he writes about texas very well ( )
  annbury | Mar 31, 2020 |
“Olmsted’s initial faith in reasoned discourse had also waned. In the course of his travels, the South’s “leading men” had struck him as implacable: convinced of the superiority of their caste-bound society, intent on expanding it, and utterly contemptuous of the North. “They are a mischievous class—”

In the 1850s, on the eve of the Civil War, a young travel writer by the name of Frederick Law Olmsted, is sent by the fledgling New York Times, to travel extensively through the south, sending back disturbing dispatches of slavery and the fiery rhetoric that came along with it.
The late Tony Horwitz, (he died shortly after this book was published) decided to trace the exact route that Olmsted took, even attempting to use the same modes of transportation, whenever possible- train, riverboat, horseback. Similar in tone, to his wonderful book, Confederates in the Attic, Horwitz chats with many people along the way, getting a feel of the past and the distress of the modern south, where a lot of anger and discontent still fester. Horwitz has an easy style of writing and a great and sometimes biting sense of humor. I think this is the perfect swan song for him. ( )
  msf59 | Feb 3, 2020 |
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"The author retraces Frederick Law Olmsted's journey across the American South in the 1850s, on the eve of the Civil War. Olmsted roamed eleven states and six thousand miles, and the New York Times published his dispatches about slavery and its defenders. More than 150 years later, Tony Horwitz followed Olmsted's route, and whenever possible his mode of transport--rail, riverboats, in the saddle--through Appalachia, down the Ohio and Mississippi, through Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and across Texas to the Rio Grande, discovering and reporting on vestiges of what Olmsted called the Cotton Kingdom"--

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