Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Book Review: Sticks in the Knapsack

I work at a library, but you'd be surprised at how difficult it is to find time to actually look at books just for pleasure. Today I took my lunch break in the stacks, and came out with some interesting finds, like:

Sticks in the Knapsack and other Ozark Tales, collected by Vance Randolph. Published by Columbia University Press in 1958, the stories in the collection were collected by one of the recognized names in folklore-gathering. What Richard Chase was to the Jack tales, Patrick Gainer to West Virginia stories and Leonard Roberts to Kentucky storytelling, Randolph was to the tales from the Ozarks. What I like about his stories is the natural way they are told; if the teller used a four-letter word, it's in the book, not edited out. I'm not saying I approve of cussing, but when I read these stories I can hear the voices of the tellers.

The tales aren't edited to be proper--they're presented as told, and there are some mighty funny stories in the collection. Like the story of the man and wife who fought so much they decided to break up housekeeping. They couldn't agree on who would get the feather tick, so they decided to cut it in half. Well, a big storm blew up as they were cutting and blew all the feathers out of the tick. They had to sleep on the same quilts that night and by morning they had gotten over their argument, deciding that neither one of them had sense enough to live alone. Even if you aren't interested in folklore, the book is worth reading just for the humor and colorful storytelling.

Although currently out of print, there are copies available online, but only a very few. Perhaps it will be re-published soon. I hope so, because I would hate to see such good stories get lost in the OOP file.

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