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Tangierman's Lament : And Other Tales of Virginia

ISBN: 9780813929743 | 0813929741
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Univ of Virginia Pr
Pub. Date: 1/30/2010

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Go where the story is--that's one tenet of journalism Earl Swifthas had little trouble living up to. In two decades of covering the commonwealth,Swift has hiked, canoed--even spelunked--a singular path through Virginia. He hasalso stopped and listened. This collection brings together some twenty Virginiatales wherein hardship is revealed as tragedy, and humor appears as uncanny,illuminating strangeness.The Pulitzer-nominatedtitle story takes us to the Chesapeake island of Tangier, home to a Methodistenclave over two hundred years old, with an economy almost wholly dependent on theblue crab. The gradual exodus of the island's young people and the dwindling crabhauls point to an inevitable extinction that finds a dramatic metaphor in theerosion of the island itself, which is literally disappearing beneath itsinhabitants' feet.An epic piece of reporting,"When the Rain Came" revisits the August night in 1969 whenHurricane Camille descended on Nelson and Rockbridge counties, bringing with it adeluge of nearly Biblical proportions that killed 151 people. It was latercharacterized by the Department of the Interior as "one of the all-timemeteorological anomalies in the United States." Swift looks beyond theextraordinary numbers to find the individual stories, told to him by the people whostill remember the trembling floorboards and rain too heavy to see, or even breathe,through.Other stories include a nerve-wrackinginside look at the Pentagon on the morning of 9/11, the travails of a failednovelist turned folk-art demigod, an account of a 1929 Scott County tornado (deemedthe deadliest in Virginia history), and a profile of Nelson County swami MasterCharles, who boasts a corps of meditative followers, a mountain retreat inNellysford, and an incomplete resume. Each piece reconfirms Virginia as a landuncommonly rich in stories--and Earl Swift as one of its most perceptive andtireless chroniclers.


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