Moon Lake Legacies

Moon Lake Casino Pier ~ Featured in “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Tucked between Yazoo Pass and the Mississippi River, a few miles north of Clarksdale and a little south of the Helena, Arkansas bridge, it sat alongside Moon Lake, an oxbow good for fishing, if not for navigation and commerce.

Far from a typical bed-and-breakfast, Uncle Henry’s Inn and Restaurant provided its guests with a spacious gallery, a west-facing view over the lake, no scheduled activities, and plenty of solitude. Not every lodging encourages sitting and thinking, but, whether by accident or intention, Uncle Henry’s did.

Established as an Elks’ Lodge in 1926, the place was purchased in 1933 by a local named William Wilkerson. Known as the Moon Lake Club, it became a Prohibition landmark famous for good food, high living, and assorted illegalities: primarily forms of gambling. Connections to the Chicago mob led to a loss of respectability, but locals eventually cut those ties, and the Club prospered as a family destination for dancing, dining, and swimming. 

In 1946, it was purchased by Henry Trevino, the foster father of Sarah Bates Wright, and became Uncle Henry’s Place. In time, the Club seems to have passed out of the family’s control, but in 1986 Sarah entered into litigation that led to her reacquisition of the property.  After extensive renovations, she and her son, George Jr., re-opened the restaurant and inn, maintaining Uncle Henry’s name in honor of her step-father.

By the time I arrived, the place had become a little shabby and quite a bit quirky, imbued with fading elegance and filled with piles of indiscriminate memories. A combination of dust, torn draperies, and the occasional skeletal mouse quietly fading away behind a sofa made it easy to imagine Uncle Henry’s as a prototypical Southern Lady: temporarily down on her luck, but genteel and dignified nonetheless.

Obviously, Uncle Henry’s was a treasured part of local lore and legend, not to mention local life. As guests gathered for dinner, the room filled with regular customers who’d been coming for so many years the waitress knew every answer before asking, politely: “Will you be having the usual this evening?”

Somewhat later, when I mentioned Moon Lake to a pair of fishermen eating breakfast in the Cleveland, Mississippi Huddle House, they stopped eating and grinned. “Did you stop by Uncle Henry’s?” one asked. When I allowed as how I’d not only stopped but had lingered for a few days, the other man said, “Well, it’s not the Holiday Inn, that’s for sure. But it’s a whole lot more interesting.”

It certainly wasn’t the Holiday Inn. George hinted at that himself when I called for a reservation after a late, impulsive decision to attend Clarksdale’s Juke Joint Festival. Every motel had been booked for weeks, and most had waiting lists, but when  I called the humorously-named but perfectly respectable Shack Up Inn, the proprietor said, “You better call up to Uncle Henry’s. I believe I heard they had a cancellation, and they might be able to put you up. Of course, they might not, but you call George. He’ll tell you how things are.”

As it turned out, Uncle Henry could put me up and George did tell me how things were. “Now, you know this isn’t the Hilton,” he said on the phone. “We’re old and comfortable, but you’re not going to have that wi-fi business or a jacuzzi in your room.”

After my arrival, he added another caveat or two. “There aren’t any keys to the rooms,” he said, “so be sure you’ve got the right one. And don’t take a shower except before five and after ten at night, because sometimes water leaks from your shower down through the ceiling into the dining room.”

Despite the less than perfect accomodations, I was willing to adapt, since Uncle Henry’s had a couple of things going for it no Hilton or Holiday Inn could dream of matching — it had played host to William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, another pair of Mississippi boys who’d done really, really well for themselves.

I hadn’t intended to land in the lap of Faulkner and Williams when I decided to head to the blues festival, but that’s exactly what happened.

Faulkner frequented the Moon Lake Club as an adult — sometimes sharing time there with Williams — but Tennessee Williams’s connections were forged in childhood. His early impressions and memories, combined with the extraordinarily colorful history of the place, helped him transform the Club into the Moon Lake Casino in dramas such as Summer and Smoke, Eccentricities of a Nightingale, The Glass Menagerie, Orpheus Descending, and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Sitting in the gallery one afternoon, re-reading Williams’s plays and pondering what it must have required for him to transform this sleepy Mississippi world into works of dramatic art, I happened upon quite a different piece: an essay titled, The Catastrophe of Success.

An addendum to a copy of The Glass Menagerie I’d tucked into my bag, the essay originally was published in a 1947 edition of The New York Times, three years after the Chicago opening of The Glass Menagerie and during a time when Williams finally was receiving recognition as a serious playwright.

In the languor of those Mississippi afternoons, I found the essay particularly resonant — not only because I was in the playwright’s own country, but also because his words resonated with all the clarity and force of a plantation bell.

Most of us hope to succeed in one way or another, but Williams did succeed, and did so marvelously well. As he reflected on the circumstances of his life and career in the essay, the authority implicit in Williams’ words is undeniable, and worth considering.

Plantation bell ~ Uncle Henry’s Place, Moon Lake, Mississippi
The sort of life that I had previous to this popular success was one that required endurance, a life of clawing and scratching along a sheer surface and holding on tight with raw fingers to every inch of rock higher than the one caught hold of before. But it was a good life because it was the sort of life for which the human organism is created.
I was not aware of how much vital energy had gone into this struggle until the struggle was removed. I was out on a level plateau with my arms still thrashing and my lungs still grabbing at air that no longer resisted. This was security at last…
You cannot arbitrarily say to yourself, I will continue my life as it was before this thing, Success, happened to me. But once you fully apprehend the vacuity of a life without struggle you are equipped with the basic means of salvation.
Once you know this is true, that the heart of man, his body and his brain, are forged in a white-hot furnace for the purpose of conflict (the struggle of creation) and that with the conflict removed, the man is a sword cutting daisies, [once you understand] that not privation but luxury is the wolf at the door and that the fangs of this wolf are all the little vanities and conceits and laxities that Success is heir to – with this knowledge you are at least in a position of knowing where danger lies…
Then what is good? An obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that’s dynamic and expressive – that’s what’s good for you if you’re at all serious in your aims.
William Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having. “In the time of your life – live!” says Saroyan. That time is short, and it doesn’t return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition.

Re-reading Williams’s essay today, I imagine the scent of dogwood and azalea, the dark, moody flow of the great river, and low murmur of mist-shrouded voices.

Across the Helena Bridge, juke joints glisten in the rain, and from the shores along the river a plaintive, tremulous cry falls and rises like riffs of breeze across the Delta.

Rocking in the early evening gloom, I hear the clatter of a small boy’s feet running headlong across the gallery toward an unimaginable future, surefooted as any child still certain of his world. “Time is short,” he shouts back across the decades, his words twining like unstoppable vines through sweetgum and magnolia.

Hearing his voice, I stop my rocking. Planting my feet on boards that creak and complain like the bones of time itself I rise, my thoughts turning toward creation, while the clock ticks its loss, and the heart counts its gain, and life begins anew.

 

Comments always are welcome.
Today, George, his mother Sarah, and many of the locals who contributed so much color to Uncle Henry’s have passed away, and the Moon Lake landmark no longer is in operation. Needless to say, the memories remain.

96 thoughts on “Moon Lake Legacies

  1. Like all of your writing, this piece is beautiful and evocative and thoughtful. I grew up in Mississippi in the shadow of Faulkner and Welty and Williams and have always striven to be worthy of their legacy (and failing miserably), but this piece of yours resurrects the ghosts of all of them and makes them smile. You have done them proud.

    I just crossed over the Mississippi River earlier today and as I drove through the Mississippi of my youth, I was already in an introspective mood. Your piece was the perfect bookend to my day, the other one being crossing the Mississippi River Bridge.

    Thank you for this beautiful piece.

    1. I’ve loved Mississippi since my first visit there, in the 1960s, when my parents indulged my desire to visit Oxford and see Faulkner’s house. I imagine your feelings on crossing that bridge were akin to mine when I cross the Red River, and am back in Texas.

      Your comment about being worthy of that literary legacy made me smile, since it reminded me of Flannery O’Connor’s wonderful remark about Faulkner. She once said, “The presence alone of Faulkner in our midst makes a great difference in what the writer can and cannot permit himself to do. Nobody wants his mule and wagon stalled on the same track the Dixie Limited is roaring down.”

      Isn’t that just the truth? Still, if we can manage to get our mules off the tracks, we might at least catch a glimpse of that train, and be inspired to ride along for a while.

  2. In 2014 we discussed perseverance and try, try, try again. This time what jumps out at me is:

    “’In the time of your life – live!’ says Saroyan. That time is short, and it doesn’t return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition.”

    1. Whenever I think of time slipping away, I can’t help remembering Willie Nelson’s great take on that reality. This performance may be one of his greatest; from the expressions on his listeners’ faces it seems they’re remembering some of their own losses, and perhaps their own ways of opposing them.

    1. It did indeed — any state that can produce great novelists and great bluesmen has a lot going for it. It’s always tickled me that Oxford’s not only the home of Faulkner, it’s also the home of Fat Possum Records, who brought wider recognition to some of the Mississippi hill country bluesmen. Treasure comes in a lot of forms.

    1. We certainly don’t have the history that your country does, but there are places where personalities and events have merged, and the explorations of those places can be extraordinarily interesting. A whole other dimension of Moon Lake is that my great-great-grandfather, a member of the 34th Iowa, began his Civil War service just south of the Helena bridge: part of the ill-fated Yazoo Expedition, which I’m still learning about.

  3. This sounds just like my kind of place. I never like the hotels like Holiday Inn, or all the other modern ones with all mod cons. Give me a place with character. Those other places are just soulless.
    And I love the quote. So worth remembering.
    Thank you.

    1. The hotel and motel chains have their place, but a nice local diner and out-of-the-way lodging often provide unanticipated delights and wonderful memories. One of my favorites, the historic Cottage House in Council Grove, Kansas, has re-opened under new management, and is getting wonderful reviews. It would be great if the same could happen for Uncle Henry’s.

    1. I’m not quite in the new digs yet, GP — that doesn’t happen until Monday. But I’ve got enough shoved into boxes now that I had a little time for a post and pie-baking. I believe it’s going to be a fine Thanksgiving!

    1. I am glad, and I’m glad guests pretty much had the run of the place. I spent a wonderful afternoon sorting through the magazines, books and papers in the gallery pictured above. It was especially interesting to read the publications of the UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy) — Sarah Wright was a member. Some of the magazine issues there were quite old, and made for interesting reading.

  4. As a Midwesterner, I never appreciated the culture and pace of the south, or the writers who chronicled it. Not for a long time, anyway. Now I’m playing catch-up “…while the clock ticks its loss.” As they say, better late than never.

    I must say, it sounds as though you are in your element.

    1. As a former midwesterner, I’ll confess that I’ve found both Texas and the American South particularly congenial. There’s a lot I love about my Iowa years, and I still cherish the values that formed me there, but Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi have my heart: the food, the music, the history, and the people all appeal, and there’s enough exploring left to do there to fill up the relatively short rest of my life.

    1. I’ve always loved Williams’s essay. We always hear about the struggling artists, but I thought it was interesting to read about the experience of success from one who didn’t have to struggle any longer — at least for recognition — but who still considered continued struggle worthwhile.

  5. What a beautiful piece of writing…both yours and Williams. I was drawn into this essay and wishing I could have been there at Uncle Henry’s taking in its history and the rocking next to you.

    1. Thank you, Jean. I wish you could have been there, too. Sitting and rocking is pretty high on my list of enjoyable activities in any setting, but that one was special. You would have enjoyed talking with George, for sure. Take the guys from your restaurant, stir in some good Southern bourbon, add a dollop of “I just run this joint for kicks,” and you’d be pretty close to George. On the other hand, the guests who showed up for dinner might have been even more journal-worthy: especially the old ladies with their bottles in their brown paper bags, their bejeweled eyeglass holders, and their propensity to gossip just loudly enough that everyone could profit from it.

  6. What a piece! Sounds as though Uncle Henry’s has lots of ghosts. Williams had a point, but surely too much adversity can kill, just as too much luxury can smother. I think of the hardscrabble life of my parents, my grandparents, and further back. Not much room for creativity when all you can do is think about how you’re going to feed your family and stay warm. But even so, perhaps Williams has a point. Anyway, I’ll be thinking about this. Thanks so much for sharing and writing.

    1. From my perspective, the struggles Williams was highlighting were quite different from the day-to-day, physical struggles to survive. Still, your point is well taken. As a matter of fact, I once wrote about that very issue in a post titled “Call me Ismael”. It’s a fact that my creative urges tend to evaporate in summer heat, but I have AC to revive myself. Many people don’t, and their realities may well keep them from the sort of creative expression that comes more easily to some of us — whatever the quality of our work.

      1. I went to the Ishmael post. Enjoyed it, as I have all of yours. I’m grateful that you produce these, and that I have such easy access. I wont tell you all the things I thought about while reading about Uncle Henry’s and about varnishing sailboats because I like just thinking, and remembering. Just wanted you to know that your efforts here are appreciated. Also I’m glad that you sometimes link to earlier posts. I didn’t see an index, or I would be spending even more time here.

        1. One of my winter projects is getting my categories and tags better organized, but at least you found them. When I first began blogging, I didn’t really understand how they worked, and I’ve never gone back to make them more usable. Still, clicking one like ‘travel’ or ‘poetry’ can turn up some interesting things.

          I’m certainly glad you enjoy the posts here. In my opinion, the quality’s a little uneven (as it is for all of us) but I certainly enjoy writing them, so we’re even in that regard!

  7. every minute of life experience is lost to the next but it isn’t a loss. it is experience gained or a pleasure enjoyed or a lesson learned or aid given or love shared. yes, time is short but the time passed is not a loss.

    1. I’ll agree with you, but with the same caveat Williams proposed: that the losses come unless we devote our hearts to opposing those losses. Some people never have the heart to oppose, and they lose the value of experience after experience because of it.

  8. Oh, I am sure you encountered some spirits there as you rocked. The place had character. Perfect for someone like you who appreciates history and the out of the way. Too bad the landmark is not operational.

    1. What I’ve realized in the past few years is that we have some similar places tucked away here in Texas: the Luther Hotel in Palacios comes to mind, or the Blessing Hotel. Once I get resettled, I’ll be making it a point to visit them, as well, and explore a little more deeply than I have in the past.

      I do think it can be iffy to try to revive places that have died a natural death. Uncle Henry’s was so deeply connected with so many famous/quirky/local people that once the people are gone, it’s as though the life goes out of the place, too. You can replace boards, clean up the flower beds, and use the old sign, but it’s just not the same. That’s one reason to visit the places while they’re still around, and vibrant. I didn’t know it when I visited Uncle Henry’s, but I know it now.

  9. Ah, Linda, how I enjoyed this lovely piece of writing! You’ve captured a time and place that calls to my soul and urges me to return to the Mississippi of time gone by. It never ceases to amaze me just how many prolific (and now famous) writers emerged from the Magnolia State’s red clay soils. Hm, perhaps if I’m really to finish my book, I need to hole up at a bygone place like Uncle Henry’s and let the words flow!

    1. Somehow I missed knowing that Mississippi considers itself the Magnolia State, but that certainly explains the flower on Uncle Henry’s sign. Every time I think about Mississippi, I think of you. I visited the coast first, as so many people do. Then, I followed the Blues Trail up through the delta, but I still need to spend more time exploring the hill country there. I’d better get as busy as I can — time is passing, and the years I have left for such things are very, very few. It’s hard to realize that, but Saroyan was right: time is slipping away, and in the time of our lives, we should live.

      1. As you know, Dallas and I are big fans of living until you die. Perhaps it’s the “dormant” time of year, but I feel much the way you do — that time is slipping away, and we shouldn’t waste it.

  10. What an experience you had there. Your musings overlap with my post a day later. Time, loss, creative power… so much to think about.

    I really laughed about George’s introduction to your lodgings, but Uncle Henry’s seems to have been the perfect place for a literary sort of time travel. Just the name Moon Lake takes me somewhere…

    1. There’s nothing more fun than meeting a person who’s utterly without pretension, and that was George. It’s remarkable that I can remember so much about him — including the “breakfast” he was inclined to serve while he still was recovering from the night before.

      What’s so odd about Moon Lake is that I learned about it while researching my gr-gr-grandfather’s involvement with the Civil War. His regiment, the 34th Iowa, began their service at Helena, in the so-called Yazoo Expedition. I was reading about the connection of Moon Lake to that expedition when I came across the literary connections, and Uncle Henry’s. Serendipity is a wonderful thing!

  11. I’ve never been a big Faulkner nor a Williams fan. However, I do love an old idiosyncratic place, the kind of place you don’t just live in, but sometimes have to live around, and even despite. The door you have to lift on the knob to close, the staircase with old wood that sings as you walk up or down it. The floor that subsides gently but firmly toward one wall. The kind of place that not only has character, but that is one.

    1. Exactly. That sort of place does live, and anyone who doesn’t believe that simply hasn’t encountered one. Just as with people, it seems to be the quirks we remember, too — or the sounds and scents of a time now gone. Now, the ‘clinkers’ in our old coal furnace are coming to mind, and I realize it’s almost time to pull out A Christmas Story again for that rush of childhood memories.

    1. Thanks, Tina. As for the present, here’s a report that will please you. I happened to pull the Duranta I purchased on a whim to a spot in front of the window near my computer desk, and yesterday morning when I looked out, there was a bee happily buzzing around its flowers. When I get it out of its hanging basket and into a pot in my new place, I suspect it may begin supporting even more bees.

      1. That’s great! Duranta are lovely plants, I wish I had a better place for one. The plant I gave to my neighbor isn’t blooming, but she planted it in a nice, blasting sun spot. Every time I walk or ride by, I check and it’s still got its leaves and she’s protecting against the freezes. I look forward to hers blooming.

        Enjoy yours–and the critters who will come!

  12. Uncle Henry’s Inn and Restaurant sounds like the place for me. I would prefer a place with character and history any day for any of the big chains, whether Holiday or some other lookalike hotel. Since Faulkner is one of my favourite writers that would make a vist to Uncle Henry’s Inn and Restaurant even more interesting.

    1. One of the things that’s always delighted me is the way Faukner made Yoknapatawpha County as real as Uncle Henry’s — right down to mapping the place in detail.

      Since you’re a Faulkner fan, it may already have struck you that Tennessee Williams’s essay on “The Catastrophe of Success” and Faulkner’s 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech have certain similarities. There’s no doubt in my mind that Faulkner would have read his friend’s essay, and it’s entirely possible that it played a role in his own thinking. In any event, both are a part of one of our richest literary traditions, and it was pure pleasure to experience a place that influenced them both.

  13. OK.. have loaded this and will enjoy it at home.. it will be like a trip back to ‘the Delta’ without having to go through airport security! Thanks in advance!

    Happy Thanksgiving – and happy ‘settling’ into your new GPS location!

    1. Given your own recent moves, I’m sure you’ve experienced coming to that point where the only thing that seems important is getting it over with! I’m at that point, and will be more than happy not only to empty and dispose of the boxes, but also to begin establishing a new routine. Any routine!

      Good to see you. I hope all’s well and somewhat more settled in your world, and that the coming festive season is wonderful for you.

    1. Thanks! You’re rooted enough in southern culture (and all things slightly quirky) to really be able to appreciate a place like Uncle Henry’s. Glad you enjoyed the post!

    1. Alabama and Georgia — two places I haven’t been. I’m surprised again and again to realize just how large our country is, and how impossible it would be to see it all: at least, unless someone started a whole lot earlier than I did!

  14. Beautiful! What an interesting piece of memoir, your brush with the literary greats. Too bad you couldn’t get their autographs. And while I’m here on this important day: Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. I may not have gotten their autographs, but they both (especially Faulkner) have left an indelible impression on me — as did my visit to Uncle Henry’s. This was a good post for me to offer on Thanksgiving, given that none of those mentioned — including the amusing and interesting George — came close to being ‘turkeys’!

  15. This is an especially beautiful post: I love the final paragraph. It sings. Also, the theme of success as the wolf at the door is so powerful. It is interesting how some artists, poets, writers, business people, etc are able to continue to be inspired and inspire at the top of their game, and others quickly descend into a kind of self-mimicry.

    1. That final paragraph — indeed, the entire last section — stands for me as evidence of the truth of advice offered by everyone from Dickens to Faulkner to Stephen King: if you want to write, then read. And don’t just read bland, boring, inelegant writing — or, heaven forbid, nothing but postings on social media. Read the best, as well, from every era. It shapes us, long before it shapes our sentences.

      I don’t know if I read it or thought it, but for some time now I’ve been convinced that it’s only after we move beyond obsessive concern for success or failure that creativity can thrive. Both Eastern and Western traditions have explored and praised the virtues of detachment, and it seems to me that a lack of detachment (to results, to success, to ego generally) often leads to that self-mimicry.

  16. Now, that is a quaint inn and for lack of a better word, I suppose quaint will suffice here. I got a kick out of your descriptions of the those old inns. And it was too funny that you were instructed to shower at a certain time- just to make sure there would be no water dripping from the dining room ceiling. Now that is what I call antiquated and in desperate need of repair. But those old inns surely gave you food to add to a very interesting post. I just love how you weave your words into your subject ideas. Yes, indeed, all those writers now long deceased, would be quite pleased with your depictions of those places that still merit an exploratory visit.

    1. You can be sure I checked out the ceiling at dinner that night, and those water stains were obvious in a couple of places. The man wasn’t just telling a story about that, although I suspected him of story-telling in other instances. That was fine — story-telling was a part of the history of the place, and if only a part of the history was going to be maintained, that’s the part I would have chosen.

      I enjoy being able to settle in to a place like that. Visiting the home of a famous person (like Faulkner) can be enjoyable, but if a place has been too well maintained (or even commercialized) it’s not nearly as much fun as being able to just poke around, and maybe even stir up a ghost or two.

  17. This is an outstanding piece of writing, Linda. Your narrative brought me right into the neighborhood and the description of the accommodations made me smile. I’m no literary critic, but I think Faulkner and Steinbeck would have enjoyed this.I got such a vivid picture from your descriptions. You definitely came up with “just the right words.”

    1. Thanks, Steve. I read right past Steinbeck, probably because, for me, he belongs right up there in the pantheon of American writers. In fact, I read Steinbeck before Faulkner or Williams; I had free rein around my parents’ bookshelves, and pulled Cannery Row off the shelf one night when I still was in grade school. Then, I wandered into their evening bridge club with a few questions for my dad. To his credit, he answered them, and didn’t tell me to put that book back on the shelf.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this. The only thing missing during that visit was a decent camera and some photographic skills, but sometimes words are enough, just as an image can suffice from time to time.

      1. That you read right past it makes me feel better about typing right past it. All are among the greats whose writings will last the test of time.
        Your vision and appreciation of the place tells through the images. The photographer makes the image and even if you feel you were not as skilled or in possession of better equipment there is something about these that tell the story.

  18. A quirky place, certainly, but what makes the place and your essay interesting are the literary echoes. I’m imagining Faulkner and Williams rocking on the porch and pondering creativity. I’ve never been further south than North Carolina, but I’ve listened to many Mississippi blues men – I’ll have to investigate Fat Possum Records.

    1. So many of the bluesmen I had the pleasure of hearing live on that trip are gone now. As the saying goes, their likes won’t be seen again — although a few of the young ones, like R.L. Burnside’s grandson Cedric, are carrying on the tradition, and doing just fine. Like you, I’ve imagined a few conversations between Williams and Faulkner; from what I’ve read, they might have been rocking on the porch, but they just as likely were rocking back at the bar.

    1. Thanks so much! I think your little place probably has a few things in common with Uncle Henry’s — it certainly has character, and maybe even a few winsome characters roaming around!

  19. Oh my. Thank you, Linda, for this evocative post. I’m still thinking about all of the truth and implications in the Williams’ quotation you posted, one which I have never seen and would have loved to have known during my teaching years. Your photos of Faulkner and Williams’ haunts in rural Mississippi take me directly to Yoknapatowpha County. I’ve always wondered who was the greatest novelist of the 20th century, Kafka or Faulkner?

    1. Kafka may have been great, but he’s never appealed to me, and I certainly don’t know enough about him to judge. I do remember an off-handed (and quite humorous) remark made by one of my high school literature teachers; asked which author she thought was the greatest, she said, “Any one of them that you’ll read.” That may not be the best standard, but for a tenth grader, there may have been some truth to it.

      One thing’s for certain. For many of us, Yoknapataphaw County’s as real as any place in the country, and always worth revisiting. Even if Uncle Henry’s has faded away, Faulkner and Williams’s worlds haven’t.

      1. Interesting comment, Linda. Kafka is very challenging in every way. I’d say The Trial had more impact on me than any other piece of world literature.

        1. Which is only one more bit of proof (as if we needed it) that the interaction between the author and the reader, in a particular context, is what really brings literature alive for us, and makes it memorable.

  20. Sounds like a place with fabulous history and character. I would like to travel through that part of the country again, maybe after I retire. We visited our son in Memphis a couple of times, and I visited Vicksburg once, which involved a little side trip to Arkansas.

    1. Did you happen to visit the Garvan Botanical Gardens when you were in Arkansas? I haven’t been there, since I had other things on my mind when I was in Arkansas, but I hear they are a must-see destination. The Arkansas native plant society always is sponsoring various walks around the state. If you go back, it would be worth contacting them for information about sites and events.

    1. Oh, my. Time’s gotten away from me a bit. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Given your love of the theater and fiction generally, I’m not surprised. Glimpses into the lives of the great authors always are interesting, and discovering the places that actually shaped their work is even better.

    1. Thanks so much, Tanja. Obviously, I’ve fallen behind a bit in my reading and commenting — I thought (oh, silly me!) that the hardest part of my move was behind me when I finished packing. I’d neglected to consider the need for unpacking, or what that would do to my time! Obviously, the wisdom of Saroyan and Williams applies even in the most mundane of life circumstances.

      1. Somehow, I don’t remember hearing about your moving plans, Linda. I commiserate. Packing and unpacking are some of life’s scourges. You will, no doubt, get it done, but in the meantime, I hope you are maintaining your sanity.
        Pray tell, which wise words are you referring to?

        1. The references to time slipping away. My (necessarily) obsessive attention to the details of moving has left me somewhat surprised that Christmas is coming, for example. I was smart enough to gather gifts for out-of-town family and friends by early November, but it’s suddenly time to get them wrapped and in the mail: pronto. Oops!

  21. I’m fond of another Nobel Laureate: Ernest Hemingway. I’m fond of his legacy in Key West and Caribbean, because I’m an islander myself, although I’ve never been to Cuba nor seen ‘Finca Vigía’ where he wrote his best work. ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ was compulsory reading for everyone in P.R..

      1. I will look into it. Thanks.

        Now that I think of it, as a novelist I like John Steinbeck even better. He was another Nobel Laureate and Pulitzer winner I truly enjoyed.

  22. Well done! Your words took me to a place which was totally new and unfamiliar. However, after reading, I feel like I’ve been there (if only through your words). I remember staying at the McKinley Grand Hotel in downtown Canton, Ohio. The hotel has been a landmark for years, but it still shows signs of character and reflects upon the life of President William McKinley, who called Canton his home.

    1. It pleases me that I made this very special place seem accessible to you. Your mention of the McKinley Grand is a good reminder that we have a multitude of places around the country that are special because of their association with historical people or events. I’ve never been to Ohio, but I can imagine that staying in a place like that would be as memorable as my visit to Uncle Henry’s. There’s a lot of country out there, and a lot of new experiences to be enjoyed!

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