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  • Book Cover

    Story Line: Exploring the Literature of the Appalachian Trail

    Date Published:
    University of Virginia Press 1998

    Book Review #1:
    The Appalachian Trail's story begins in 1921, when Benton McKaye first suggested creating a long-distance hiking trail to his friend, Harris Whitaker, editor of the influential Journal of the American Institute of Architects. The idea was picked up by several regional hiking clubs who formed a committee with the intention of building a trail from New England to North Carolina; eventually the dream became a reality when a hiking enthusiast named Myron Avery joined the project in 1930. By 1937, America boasted a trail that runs (depending on who you talk to) anywhere between 2,100 and 2,200 miles. Whatever the exact mileage, you'd have to agree that it's a long, long way from Springer Mountain (Georgia) to Mt. Katahdin (Maine); anyone walking the trail, either in parts or in its entirety would have a lot of time on their hands. And what better way to spend it than to read, suggests Ian Marshall, professor of English, avid hiker, and author of Story Line: Exploring the Literature of the Appalachian Trail. Marshall's pleasures are simple ones: he likes to walk, he likes to read, and he likes to think. In Story Line, he's managed to meld all three into a charming and thought-provoking meditation on both the beauties of nature and the artistic inspiration the wilderness provides. In addition to chronicling his own adventures along the trail over the past two decades, Marshall also discusses the literature that evokes what the trail symbolizes for him. There is Thomas Jefferson's "Notes on the State of Virginia" and Walt Whitman's "Song of the Open Road." Annie Dillard, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and more all make welcome appearances in Marshall's narrative, as he seeks to find that point of convergence where wilderness and literature meet to create what he calls "ecocriticism," an "ecology of reading." At the very least, Ian Marshall has reintroduced several great American classics to the reading public's consciousness; and who knows--Story Line might persuade some readers to spend the next sunny day on a hiking trail--preferably with a copy of Hawthorne or Whitman in hand. -- Amazon.com

    Book Review #2:
    English professor Marshall breaks new ground with his ecocritical approach to literary scholarship as he examines the influence of place on literature inspired by the Appalachian Mountain chain, which extends from Georgia to Maine. Describing his work as "a guide to the literary history and geography of the Appalachian Trail," Marshall explores a variety of literature from an ecological perspective, examining each work from its setting along the trail. Thus, he sits on a bridge at Tinker Creek while reading Annie Dillard's Pulitzer Prize-winning work, hikes through the Smokies while considering the efficacy of Cherokee myths for teaching geography in a culture dependent on oral transmission, and speculates on Thoreau's influence on Moby Dick and other writings of Melville while ascending Mt. Greylock in the Berkshires. Entertaining excerpts of Marshall's extensive hikes along the Appalachian Trail intersperse his scholarly ponderings. -- Library Journal