Monday, May 21, 2007

An American Homeplace

Donald McCaig, a Highland County, Virginia author, has a new book out, Canaan: A Novel of the Reunited States after the War. This is a sequel to his 1998 novel, Jacob's Ladder: A Story of Virginia During the War. News about his book readings and signings reminded me that he belongs in my Literary Pocahontas Compendium, because Highland County borders Pocahontas County, and because he has written eloquently about this stretch of the Alleghenies in his 1992 essay collection, An American Homeplace. I particularly admire the section of An American Homeplace in which he traces the history of his Highland County farm. It's quite informative about this part of Virginia/West Virginia, although our local historians have, inexplicably, overlooked it.

I think McCaig's best-known book is is novel with a border collie protagonist, Nop's Trials. Although McCaig seems, in An American Homeplace, to have plenty of empathy with his farming neighbors in Appalachia, he paints his villains in Nop's Trials with the standard "inbred, dirty hillbilly" brush. The moonshine-distilling, trailer-dwelling "bad guys" keep bear dogs, and hunt deer and grouse out of season. Mr. McCaig is something of a regional stereotype himself--a back-to-the-land hippie who moved here from the urban Northeast in the 1970's.

Despite his foray into the Land of the Nine-Fingered People, I admire An American Homeplace, especially for the local history, and the excellent writing about farming and land use and stewardship. Here are some Donald McCaig links I've put together.

Book Cover: An American Homeplace Book Cover: Caanan Book Cover: Nop's Trials

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