Sunday, April 29, 2007

River of Dreams - Update

As the release date for River of Dreams approaches, a preview of the dust jacket (click a section for a larger image):

Plus, some advance praise for the book. The first comes from Louis J. Budd:
"River of Dreams pulled me along as irresistibly as the Mississippi itself, deep into the South's past. Mark Twain, I think, would have read it as closely as he read and enjoyed the actual river in his piloting days. Though this book deserves rapt (not raft) attention for its own insights and appreciativeness, explicators of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should absorb it before traveling further with or into Huck, on the river or on shore."
The next, from John Seelye:

"I read Thomas Ruys Smith's book in one day's sitting (with a two hour break) a testimony to the author's graceful and lucid style, yet what he has given us is a detailed anatomy of writing inspired by North America's greatest river and the crowded scene of humanity in all its nefarious forms associated with the Mississippi during the first century of the republic. Smith's canvass starts with the post-Revolutionary period and ends with the years immediately following the Civil War. What emerges from his account is an iconography dominated by a heavy chiarasco, at the center of which is his lengthy account of gamblers, swindlers, and river pirates that gave such dark coloration to the river's chronicles: 'crooked letter, crooked letter' indeed.

"At the start, Jefferson associated the Mississippi with national unity, progress, and prosperity, but Britain's John Law had already given its name to a monstrous bubble of stock manipulation. It figured large in the obscure imperial schemes of General Wilkinson and Aaron Burr and later became associated with the horrific explosions of the steamboats that were Robert Fulton's gift to American progress. Travelers like Frances Trollope associated it with the intolerably boorish aspects of democracy, Harriet Stowe associated it with the horrors of slavery, and eastern hack writers created a mythical Davy Crockett whose crude energies seemed the river incarnate rising up as a buckskin-clad grotesque giving form to the perceived threat of Jacksonian democracy.

"Samuel L. Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, whose boyhood experiences in Hannibal gave us Tom Sawyer and whose apprenticeship to southwestern humor gave us Huck Finn, receives his due but this books' chief value is as a mural approximating those three miles of canvas rolled out as panoramas before the wondering gaze of audiences who knew a lot more about the Mississippi River after the show was over. And so will you."

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