Spying on the South

Spying on the South

An Odyssey Across the American Divide

Book - 2019
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"The author retraces Frederick Law Olmsted's journey across the American South in the 1850s, on the eve of the Civil War. Olmsted roamed eleven states and six thousand miles, and the New York Times published his dispatches about slavery and its defenders. More than 150 years later, Tony Horwitz followed Olmsted's route, and whenever possible his mode of transport--rail, riverboats, in the saddle--through Appalachia, down the Ohio and Mississippi, through Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, and across Texas to the Rio Grande, discovering and reporting on vestiges of what Olmsted called the Cotton Kingdom."--From publisher.
Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2019
Branch Call Number: 917.504 H824s
Characteristics: 476 p. ; 25 cm

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peacebenow
Mar 06, 2020

I've always enjoyed Horwitz's books but this one just lost relevance for me. Great idea following in Olmsted's footsteps but unfortunately after some increasing interest in the first half I quit around 60%. Much of present day was depressing as it seems our country would have been more advanced by now and trip also became repetitive. History associated w/ Olmsted's Civil War era trip was insightful.

m
mmlotok
Jan 29, 2020

Tedious. I gave up on it.

PimaLib_NormS Jan 24, 2020

The last book written by the late Tony Horwitz is “Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide”. Horwitz was fascinated by the writings and travels of Frederick Law Olmsted, who was a correspondent for the fledgling New York Times in the 1850s, and later became one of the world’s foremost landscape architects. Olmsted is most famous for his work designing New York’s Central Park. But, as a young man finding his way in life, he was assigned to travel throughout the Southern states to get a sense of what the people were like, and why slavery was so deeply ingrained in Southern culture. This was during the run up to the Civil War and American society was starting to fray over the issue of slavery. One hundred sixty some odd years later, during another turbulent time in America, Tony Horwitz ambitiously set out to follow Olmsted’s route, as best he could, to learn about life in the South today. A summary on the book jacket asks the question, “Is America still one country?” It is a difficult question, and the fact that the question can even be asked is troubling enough. “Spying on the South” does not alleviate the fear of a divided America, however, Tony Horwitz leavens the story of his grand adventure with bits of humor and a few tales of kindness and friendship towards a curious Yankee immersed in what sometimes seems like foreign territory.

j
judith27_0
Nov 18, 2019

This should be on every student booklist. So much hidden information. Wonderfully well researched, inserts of humor that had me giggling, details of tragedies that make you want to weep. Highly recommended.

m
MoKevany
Nov 07, 2019

I really wanted to like this book, but found is difficult to stay engaged and didn’t finish it.

c
costanza5
Aug 21, 2019

The premise is great and the book starts off really good. Then it tanks into the typical limousine liberal criticizing the south and trying to explain why Trump won in 2016.

i
Indoorcamping
Aug 19, 2019

The last book from a brilliant, thoughtful, inquisitive, creative and original observer of people and the way they get through the day. It’s sad that he left before he could see the positive swing, if there is one, through the country since this is a book documenting how the country has suffered since Olmsted’s time, and more sadly, since mid-twentieth century. If you want to read about a lot of working too hard in awful conditions while being angry and blaming the wrong people, while not getting head and almost smelling the sweat right off the page, this is the book for you.

Unfortunately, I have family like this and it was hard, almost impossible to continue reading sometimes. The Olmsted sections were lovely, like reading history. Unfortunately, the juxtaposition of descriptions of life in simpler but harsher times compared to now in our complicated, rush-rush, side-hustle, working several jobs to just get by, angry at the “other” people who are getting more or cutting ahead in line, does not put one’s mind at ease. In fact, it makes one consider what the idea of progress is, and what we’ve gained for all our civilization and technology.

That’s why we read, right?

f
FairhavenLibe
Jul 20, 2019

Hard to believe we won't be able to enjoy the wit and wisdom of Tony Horwitz following his unexpected death on May 27, 2019. His last book traces Frederick Olmsted's journeys through the deep South and Texas from 1852 to 1857. Along the way we're given a history lesson on segregation and its deep roots in American culture and policy, then and now. A must read.

i
Isabellkyrk1
Jun 12, 2019

This was not my favorite Tony Horwitz (RIP) book. I always like his style, but I found it difficult to follow the sometimes nebulous link between Frederick Law Olmsted's travel & experiences and Mr. Horwitz's travels. That being said, I always enjoy his books and it was really interesting learning about FLO.

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