Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tall Tales from the Ozarks

I'm really enjoying Donald Harington's peculiar, but delightful, book: The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks.

The book tells the story of Jacob Ingledew, a settler in the Arkansas Ozarks in the 1850's (I think). Jacob, his brother Noah, and a whole collection of other colorful characters, have adventure after adventure, all the while commenting on their lives in humorous and entertaining ways.

Somehow, I had never heard of Harington, nor of this series of books. I stumbled across them on Amazon, bought the book for the Kindle, and am looking forward to reading more of Harington's work.

Harington passed away in 2009, which is a shame (by the way, somebody should update his personal website, since it doesn't seem to acknowledge this fact). This observation from his obituary seems quite accurate to me:

Mr. Harington moved elusively among fictional categories, making him hard to place and hard to sell, which is one reason he taught history at the University of Arkansas from 1986 until 2008. His work seemed regional and in some respects traditional, but his narratives unfolded in a magical-realist haze with metafictional twists and turns and excursions into nonfiction territory.
My observation about The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks is that it seems like fiction, like history, and like several other things all at once (architectural criticism, social commentary, etc.). Apparently Harington himself did the drawings that head each chapter, and which come through quite nicely in the Kindle edition, actually.

If you're looking for a new author, and haven't ever tried Donald Harington, I recommend him highly. Give one of his books a try, and let me know what you think!

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