An American mosaic: prose and poetry by everyday folk
From Walt Whitman's catalog of America to Thomas Hart Benton's American epics painted on walls across the country to Studs Terkel's documentaries, much artistic and literary labor has stemmed from the urge to figure out what makes this country tick. Any attempt at so large a canvas as this disparate country will be fragmented and incomplete, but like Benton's 1932 mural "American Today", American Mosaic is composed of pieces that taken together provide a vivid look at vanishing scenes of American life.
Here, Robert Wolf offers a collective autobiography of the American heartland written for the most part by everyday men and women without literary ambition. Focusing on the second half of the twentieth century, this collection of essays, short stories, poems, and memoirs--woven together with Wolf's introductory notes--is the culmination of nine years of Free River Press writing workshops conducted by Wolf for the purpose of documenting contemporary American life.
The volume includes work from homeless men and women from Tennessee, small farmers in rural Iowa, residents of Midwestern small towns, the Mississippi Delta, and river communities on the Mississippi. These first-person, eyewitness accounts offer glimpses of daily life: the farmers' struggles against large corporations; poetic meditations on life in the streets, on the road, and in prison; tall tales of river town saloons; and the social rituals of cooking, town hall and party phone lines across America's small towns. Among many narratives, American Mosaic gives us the ruminations of a homeless woman over a martini in El Gilbert's poem "Drunk," descriptions of hearty, communal meals during the July harvest in Clara Leppert's piece "Meals for Threshers," a picture of the goings-on in a West Helena, Arkansas juke joint with Chris Crawford's essay "Lucky Lacey," and the reminiscences of a former Mississippi River towboat captain in Jack Libby's "The Midnight Watch Change."
Together, these diverse stories comprise panels of a literary mural of America. American Mosaic is a compelling testament to regional and local American voices and folkways which are fast disappearing through the relentless push towards a global economy and culture.
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An American mosaic: prose and poetry by everyday folkUser Review - Book Verdict
In 1990, after founding Free River Press, Wolf began a program of writing workshops in Nashville for homeless men and women with the intent of publishing their writing. This led to workshops for farm families and other groups in the region that were eventually featured on CBS Sunday Morning and National Public Radio's All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Taken from these workshops and beyond, the short stories, poems, and memoirs collected here are as diverse as daily life, offering an abundance of literary Americana focusing primarily on the latter part of the 20th century. Thomas Hart Benton's mural "America Today" (1932) served as a major influence on the book's structure; separate sections depict the homeless, the Midwest, the Mississippi River, and the Delta, with each section including a commentary by the editor. The order follows the chronology in which the works were developed. This is an oral history triumph, featuring the voices of the real folk who fight each day to survive their personal struggles. Highly recommended.--Cynde Bloom Lahey, New Canaan Lib., CT ...
Review: An American Mosaic: Prose and Poetry for Everyday FolkUser Review - George - Goodreads
This is probably closer to a 3.5 rating, but in absence of half stars it remains a 3. The memoirs of the Iowa farmers profiled were particularly educational for me. The fact that the governments ... Read full review
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