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Letters to Dan: A Philosophical Guide to the Ozarks (Paperback)
On Our Shelves Now
Winner of the Sassafras Award
Letters to Dan takes the reader to the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. The guideposts for this journey are the region’s rivers and hills, its forests and vibrant wildflowers. In personal essays and photographs, Don House describes old cemeteries, abandoned buildings, and highway memorial crosses. He introduces us to a neighbor skilled at water dowsing, to local cafe owners and river guides. The essays express a love of the region’s heritage and its modern culture. The book creates a sense of place and shows us how to live in harmony in the natural world.
"These lyrical and meditative essays possess qualities as rare—and possibly as endangered—as the Ozark-dwelling Wood Frogs the author writes about in 'Changes,' one of my favorite pieces here. I’m talking about such virtues as patience, subtlety, brevity, and humility. It’s not often one encounters 'personal essays' that spend so little time focusing on the self. Like the lens of the author’s camera, the writing throughout this extraordinary book is trained unwaveringly and lovingly on the hills, rivers, cemeteries, old churches, small-town diners, people, plants, and animals of the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.
"Among this book’s many pleasures, for instance, is the moving portrait of Carl— the author’s aging dog, guide and companion—who becomes, by the end of these essays, as vivid a character as the very vivid humans that pass through this memoir.
"As I read the manuscript, I began to see that each essay—in its understated, eloquent way—speaks to the wonder and complexity of the natural world and to the interconnectedness of all life. The authenticity and urgency of this message is woven deep into the fibers of the writing. Behind each word lies the authority of a lifetime of observation and insight. Taken together, these essays form a testament to what the author memorably refers to as 'my decades of paying attention.' Letters to Dan is a rare and remarkable book."
—Davis McCombs, Director of the University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation