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The FLC Library Committee

Life on the Mississippi by Rinker Buck
June 25, 2024 7:00 on Zoom 
Discussion Leader:  Tryvge Engeg

A dry cleaner in Yankton, S.D., once told me that he had spied so many fussily costumed boaters from the banks of the nearby Missouri River that he’d grown weary of new arrivals. “People are recreating Lewis and Clark,” he said. “It happens here all the time.” He loved the river, for its waterfowl and promise of imaginative escape, but not always its thru-traveling flock, who, if not reprising the migration of previous generations, often seemed to be proselytizing for one thing or another: energy independence, say, or sobriety. “Some of these people are a little on their high horse, you know?” he said. To meet a waterborne voyager whose only cause was wanderlust: That was novel.
I thought of my conversation with the dry cleaner while reading Rinker Buck’s engaging “Life on the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure,” which recounts the author’s 2,000-mile journey from Pittsburgh to New Orleans aboard a purpose-built wooden flatboat, like the ones used by Appalachian farmers in the decades after the Revolutionary War. His rotating crew includes a sometime Meriwether Lewis impersonator whom Buck loathes, not only for his casual racism and misogyny but for his pretension — archaic speech, suitcase bulging with 19th-century outfits.
Historical re-enactors, Buck writes, are “overdressed losers.” Readers of his previous book, “The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey,” will recognize the particular sensitivity. For that entertaining project, Buck traversed the old pioneer route by covered wagon, while railing against those purists who would lament the intrusions of asphalt and soft serve. The frontier was ever debased. Still, you might say that Buck is a re-enactor by another name: a travel writer, who delights in incongruity and in history’s rhymes.
The June library display highlights some of the novels we have read in our monthly book discussion group. Check it out!


From Book Club Coordinator, Clint Bastin
The FLC Book Discussion Group has been meeting regularly, via Zoom on the fourth Tuesday of each month, since August of 2020. We have read and discussed a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction books, including poetry, a graphic novel, racial and social justice themes, religious/spiritual stories, and mysteries/thrillers. We typically spend about 60-75 minutes discussing symbolism, themes, storylines, and how the book might relate to our present life. Many of our discussion participants often say that they learned as much about the book during the discussion as they did reading the book.
The FLC Library Committee and I recently solicited nominations for future books, voted on them, and assigned them to upcoming months. We try to rotate discussion leaders for the books; if you see a book that strikes your interest, and would like to volunteer to lead the discussion, please let the Library Committee or me know. We hope you can join us in our future interesting, challenging, and fun discussions!