Skip to content

Take Trip Down South In Your Favorite Chair: Laugh, Learn, Be Challenged

January 22, 2021

I totally stumbled onto this book, though I knew of the author and his wife, (Geraldine Brooks) but had no real idea of the power Tony Horwitz had with words. Masterful is too limiting a description of what is found within the pages. I would ask that you try not to laugh out loud when reading this book while your better-half is trying to sleep…..

I always ponder, when finding a book like this, how many scores of other authors are just waiting to make the same impression on me.

I first came to know the multi-dimensional side of Frederick Law Olmsted in Erik Larson’s Devil In The White City. Author Tony Horwitz takes readers back to the decade prior to the Civil War when Olmstead is not sure where life is to take him and so he journeys as a newspaper writer throughout the South, in an attempt to meet real people and describe them for a nation nearing catastrophe. Spying On The South is the retracing of the months-long trek the future famed landscape architect takes from West Virginia to Texas.

Horwitz writes with the scope of history as his friend, which is always an asset. His work aims to illuminate the discord and polarization of our own time, while using the writings of Olmstead as a long-ago guide. In one early compelling chapter Horwitz likens a portion of his experience on a towboat on the Ohio River to a feeling akin to a red-suited member of a Star-Trek landing party. Such characters were always destined to be vaporized on a strange planet. But as the boat slowly–slowly being the operative word–meanders and pushes barges of coal to ports downriver he finds the character of the work crew more than what they first appear.

With insight and pure witty styling as a writer, Horwitz takes readers across regions that demand to be better known if we are to better understand the combustible nature of where we are in the nation today. The book was researched and written during and after the 2016 presidential election. With a conversational tone, the ability to craft dialogue, and marshaling historical oversight to add perspective the book ensures this is a joy to read. It is also delightful to consider, as the pages turn, the way the book was designed and shaped into the final product.

As I have already said masterful is too limiting a description of what is found within the pages. I strongly recommend this book to my readers.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: