The Bark River Chronicles: Stories from a Wisconsin Watershed

. September 2012. 304p. 978-0-87020-494-4. 18.95.
Bates’s (The Wars We Took to Vietnam: Cultural Conflict and Storytelling) chronicle of an April to October voyage along the Bark River in southeastern Wisconsin—actually a composite of many trips taken over many years—moves at a canoe’s pace, a compliment reflecting both his physical movement on the river and his own meandering thoughts. He strikes a timeless and intimate tone that Minnesotans, Michiganders, and Wisconsinites (or even fans of Garrison Keillor) know well. Readers learn about ice harvesting, the Black Hawk War, local scandals and legends, a gigantic little circus, mobsters, murders, and a gifted local poet, Lorine Niedecker—an Imagism-influenced poet of whom Bates, himself a Wallace Stevens scholar, paints a lovely portrait.
VERDICT This book will reward insightful readers. Certainly for regionalists, this also will be popular with any reader with a fond place in their heart for Wisconsin.
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