Showing posts with label River of Dreams Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label River of Dreams Reviews. Show all posts

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Monday, February 04, 2013

Gods of the Mississippi

Great news for anyone with even a passing interest in the social and cultural history of the Mississippi River: Michael Pasquier's Gods of the Mississippi is just about to be released by Indiana University Press. I'm delighted to say that I have a chapter in the collection. It's an exploration of a number of antebellum American new religious movements (the Vermont Pilgrims, Mormons, Millerites), their relationship with the Mississippi, and the ways in which echoes of these groups lived on in the writings of early Midwestern realists like Mark Twain, William Dean Howells and Edward Eggleston who grew up around them. But beyond that, this looks to be a very compelling set of essays which should very fruitfully extend our understanding of the river's role in national life.

I'm doubly delighted to say that River of Dreams also gets a kind hat-tip in Michael Pasquier's introduction - alongside Thomas Buchanan's wonderful Black Life on the Mississippi (that I reviewed here). This is what he has to say:

Gods of the Mississippi is available from here, here, and can be previewed on Google Books here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Gateway: The Magazine of the Missouri History Museum

River of Dreams was reviewed in issue 28 of Gateway, the magazine of the Missouri History Museum. David Lobbig writes:
"Thomas Ruys Smith vividly connects his readers to an important time in the explosive peopling of our nation [...] which taken together is like the relearning of a favourite story or song long forgotten [...] What we know in more modern terms as our "strong, brown god" has a rich, important history and myth hardly known. It is a river flowing with archetypes. Perhaps it is not possible for us to see the river with the same eyes as those who once strove against its strength and unpredictability to be sustained by its life. But those people saw their dreams reflected in the Mississippi, and this accounting gives a proper perspective so that readers today, sitting on its banks, may see themselves more clearly."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Review: Year's Work in English

River of Dreams got a nod in Year's Work in English Studies 89 (2010):
"In recent years, Twain's travel writing has received renewed attention in scholarship. Especially strong examples of this trend are Thomas Ruys Smith's River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain..." 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review: Louisiana History

River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain has been reviewed by Daniel Claro in Louisiana History (50:2, Spring 2009). He writes, "this book succeeds in depicting the wonderfully rich literary context that inspired and informed Twain's career."

For a sneak preview of what I'm currently working on, click here.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: Journal of Southern History

River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain has been reviewed by James E. Seelye in the Journal of Southern History (May 2010). He writes:
"River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi before Mark Twain by Thomas Ruys Smith is an engaging guide to changing conceptions of the Mississippi River during the antebellum period. Smith's accessible and well-written narrative catalogs the variety of views and commentary about the "American Nile" from a range of individuals, including writers, foreign visitors, and U.S. presidents. One of the work's biggest strengths is the wide spectrum of views that Smith examines [...] Smith uses an impressive array of primary sources by those with firsthand knowledge of or associations with the Mississippi River [...] Cultural historians will find the book to be a solid portrait of antebellum life along the Mississippi River; those interested in historical memory will find the study especially useful."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Journal of the Early Republic

River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain has been reviewed in the Journal of the Early Republic. Ann Ostendorf writes:
"Thomas Ruys Smith examines the meaning of the river in the antebellum American imagination. Using literary analysis, Smith unpacks the multitude of written and visual representations of the river as it flowed through American culture and consciousness [...] Smith shows how Twain's postbellum fascination with the literary Mississippi emerged out of decades of prior cultural appropriations [...] Smith's extensive uses of primary-source quotations are often delightfully expressive of contemporary worldviews [...] Ultimately, this work is a creative expression of the nineteenth-century American mind and culture through the ways people of that era viewed this iconic natural resource."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Review: Southern Literary Journal

River of Dreams has been reviewed by Scott Romine in the Southern Literary Journal, as part of a longer essay, "The Nature of the South" (42:1, Fall 2009). He writes:
River of Dreams is a rich study, splendidly researched and elegantly written. Although its subtitle and blurb from Louis Budd position it relative to Mark Twain, the book’s true achievement lies in its nuanced account of the “countless [antebellum] stories . . . told in countless ways about the giant river that bisected America” (194). If, as Budd suggests, River of Dreams should be required reading for readers of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, it is equally valuable to students of antebellum culture [...] archivally and synthetically rich—indeed, it is quite dazzling.
You can read the full review here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Journal of Illinois History

River of Dreams has been reviewed in the Journal of Illinois History by James Hurt. Hurt says:

River of Dreams is an impressive achievement that will interest not only students of the American landscape (or riverscape) and the cultural uses to which it has been put but also "general readers" [...] the book as it stands is an intelligent, original, and imaginative contribution to American cultural studies.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies

River of Dreams has been reviewed by Luther Brown in Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies. He writes: "This is a valuable book and should be in the collections of anyone concerned with re-presenting place, early Americana, The River, and certainly Mark Twain."

Click for bigger images:

American Literature

River of Dreams has received mention in American Literature:

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Booklist Review

Writing in Booklist (May 1, 2007), the publication of the American Library Association, George Cohen described River of Dreams as "a lively and wide-ranging account of this majestic body of water."

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."