A History of the Ozarks, Volume 1, The Old Ozarks. By Brooks Blevins. (University of Illinois Press, 2018, Pp. 297)
In his preface to Hill Folks, his history of the Arkansas Ozarks (2002), Brooks Blevins noted that “the Ozark region has largely been denied a scholarly, historical record” (xi). Blevins now delivers the first volume of a trilogy that will provide this long-denied scholarly, historical record of the entire Ozarks. This first volume begins with the prehistoric forces that created the physical Ozarks and ends on the eve of the Civil War. Blevins steps into this vast span of distant time and provides an ordered and detailed account of the physical and cultural evolution of this region before it became the Ozarks of modern mythology and stereotype. A full review of this volume will be posted on the Elder Mountain website.
The Scars of Project 459: The Environmental Story of the Lake of the Ozarks. By Traci Angel. (University of Arkansas Press, 2014, Pp. 147)
An overview of the lake’s history and environmental impact. As Angel states in her epilogue, this journalistic study is “a jumping off point for much more about the Lake of the Ozarks region’s environmental topics” and “a cautionary tale for other human-made lakes and [their] communities.” Although the author never uses the term “tragedy of the commons,” this might be a fitting descriptor for a privately owned lake surrounded by unplanned development.
The Ozarks in Missouri History: Discoveries in an American Region. Edited by Lynn Morrow. (University of Missouri Press, 2013, Pp. 305)
The fifteen essays in this collection originally appeared in the Missouri Historical Review and have been identified as “pioneering efforts” by the editor. These essays offer close studies of a variety of key topics, such as Native American migration, slave labor in mines, depiction of the Ozarks during the Civil War, race issues in Springfield, unions, railroads, sporting clubs, timber usage, racial terror, public welfare, and agriculture.
Live Free or Croak: Poems. By Larry Rogers. (Golden Antelope Press, 2017, Pp. 53)
As suggested by its title, this volume of poetry assumes a defiant and lively stance toward life. The author, who was “mostly raised in a potting shed trailer in the piney woods of west central Arkansas,” engages a wide variety of topics, such as a Peeping Tom, Vietnam, and Marlon Perkins’ genitals. Many of these poems display hardscrabble attitudes and realities often associated with Ozarkers, and several of the poems are set squarely in the region. In one of these, “A Horse-Drawn Cart with Car Tires for Wheels,” the narrator recounts seeing, in 1967, two young grieving widows riding in a horse-drawn cart to attend the funeral of their husbands, “two local boys” who had “died in Southeast Asia.”
Footprints in the Ozarks. By Ellen Gray Massey. (Goldminds Publishing, 2012, Pp. 223)
A memoir by one of the pre-eminent folklorists and chroniclers of Ozarks culture. This is a charming yet clear-eyed account of this author’s lifetime of experiences in the Ozarks as a county home agent, a farmer, an educator, and a prolific and respected editor and author. Massey provides firsthand experiences in the rural Missouri Ozarks, such as falling in love, falling in the river while gigging, selling and butchering beloved farm animals, and enduring a drought. Especially poignant is Massey’s account of becoming a young widow with three small children and a farm.
Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks, 1850-1950. By Abby Burnett. (University Press of Mississippi, 2014, Pp. 327)
A detailed and in-depth study of regional burial customs. This book is engaging, fascinating, and horrifying as Burnett explores most every conceivable aspect of dying, death, burial, and remembrance. Burnett is a tireless researcher and the scope and depth of research packed into this volume is suggested by the number of sources cited in the bibliography—more than 500. Few things offer more insight into a society than how it responds to death. A landmark work.
Glurk! A Hellbender Odyssey. By Mark Spitzer. (Anaphora Literary Press, 2016, Pp. 158)
A free-wheeling quirky glurky study and celebration of the Ozarks Hellbender. Spitzer offers a tour de force of comedy, tragedy, and word play as he relates the enthralling history and uncertain future of this unique and endangered creature. This book will impress biologists, poets, general readers, and anyone cares about this ancient species and the health of this planet.
Langford Wilson: Early Stories, Sketches, and Poems. Edited by David Crepsy. (University of Missouri Press, 2017, Pp. 288)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Langford Wilson was born in Lebanon, Missouri. When he was five, he moved with his mother to Springfield and then to Ozark. He graduated from Ozark High School in 1955 and attended Southwest Missouri State University for a year before moving to San Diego. This is a collection of his early works from the years 1955 through 1964, and many of these works are set in the towns in which he grew up.
Back Yonder: An Ozark Chronicle. By Wayman Hogue and edited by Brooks Blevins. (University of Arkansas Press, 2016, Pp. 327)
This is the first entry in the Chronicles of the Ozarks series. Blevins states in his preface that “[t]he Ozark books of the Depression era played a crucial role in establishing the simplistic and reductionist stereotypes, both positive and negative. It is for this reason that the University of Arkansas Press . . . will reprint some of the era’s Ozarks books with introductions and editorial notes that place each book and its author against the backdrop of the era and its popular assumptions and myths of life in the Ozarks.” Back Yonder was a popular memoir during the Depression years, depicting an impoverished and rugged hill family overcoming hard times with humor, self-reliance, and integrity.
The Ozarks: An American Survival of Primitive Society. By Vance Randolph and edited by Robert Cochran. (University of Arkansas Press, 2017, Pp. 298)
The second entry in the Chronicles of the Ozarks series, this is an edited reproduction of Vance Randolph’s classic first book of Ozarks folkways and folklore. Originally published in 1931, The Ozarks introduces the place, the people, and the numerous elements of Ozarks culture that Randolph would spend his life chronicling.
This Old World and The Language of Trees. By Steve Wiegenstein. (Blank Slate Press, 2014, Pp. 217; 2017, Pp. 214)
The second and third installments of the excellent Daybreak series that began with Slant of Light in 2012. This series narrates the struggles of Daybreak, a utopian community founded during the antebellum years in the Ozarks of southeastern Missouri. Throughout this trilogy Wiegenstein challenges standard depictions of the Ozarks as a place of indestructible natural beauty, of social isolation, and of cultural exceptionalism. This well-written and informed trilogy narrates approximately fifty years of the commune’s history, decades in which the region was shaped by the horrors of civil war, the violence of peace, and the destructive consequences of resource extraction.
Fiddler’s Dream, Old-Time, Swing, and Bluegrass Fiddling in Twentieth-Century Missouri by Howard Wight Marshall. (University of Missouri Press, 2017, Pp. )
This study is a follow up to Marshall’s Play Me Something Quick and Devilish (2012),which analyzed the development of Missouri fiddle music from the time of the early settlers up to the 1920s. Fiddler’s Dream picks up the history from there and moves forward to the 1960s, decades in which advances in electronic communication revolutionized the music industry.