Gather at the River by Hal Crowther

Gather_at_the_river      When I first read Hal Crowther’s commentaries in the newspaper years ago, I’d often dismiss him as an old crank, but would still read his columns.  As time went by, I acquired a taste for Crowther’s work.  It was difficult to agree with him on everything, but he displayed enough pithiness with his written jousts against the issue dragons to keep me reading. 

     Being a native North Carolinian, I appreciated Crowther’s views on the American South – his collection Cathedrals of Kudzu was particularly good – and when Gather at the River came in, it was a must-read for me.  I am about half-way through it, and as much as I can tell, he hasn’t lost his edge. 

     In it, Crowther takes on all things wild and woolly about the South, from race relations and roots music to the its written and oral literary tradition.  Within these pages, you’ll encounter essays that include William Faulkner and Dolly Parton, Southern myths and mystery, all within pages of each other. Crowther is endlessly fascinated by the complex stew of peoples and attitudes that make up the South. 

   You can tell that Crowther is aware of the South’s foibles and eccentricities, but loves it for its uniqueness, and is quick to defend Southern cultures from the derision of outsiders’ eyes.  I like Hal Crowther simply for this, and also for the manner with which he casts a critical eye to the South without deriding it.  As I said at the beginning, I don’t agree with Crowther on everything, and sometimes I have to roll my eyes when reading some passages.  But he doesn’t mince words, and in these PC times, that can be refreshing.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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