Every state is fiercely proud of its cultural traditions, native products and favourite sons, and Wisconsin is no exception. Among the state's literary assets is August Derleth, the author of more than 150 books, most celebrating the Midwest and its people. "Walden West", reissued here for the first time since its original publication in 1961, is considered by many to be Derleth's masterwork. Derleth was a chronicler whose ear was close to the northern ground. In his Sac Prairie Saga, of which "Walden West" is the crowning volume, he captures the essences of midwestern village life with his distinctive combination of narrative and prose-poetry. The book is a series of anecdotes, meditations, character sketches, evocations of the landscape, and celebrations of its human and animal life. In sections such as "The Choir of Frogs" and "Oh, the Smell of the Grass" and "Mrs Opal Kralz" we meet, in all their small-town particularity, rich symbols of America's rural origins and experience. In other sections - "The Voices of the Wind Are Endless in Their Variety" and "If There is One Winter Voice Informed with Wildness" - we are treated to the music of the land.
And in others still - "Millie Pohlman, "Old Mrs Block", "The Buchenau Women" - we sample the inimitable melody the people bring to their places. Derleth himself called "Walden West", "an exposition on three related themes: on the persistence of memory; on the sounds and odours of the country: of Thoreau - the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". But one also comes away from these pages with a sense of the comedy and lyricism of the American rural experience, of the rootedness of its people to their land, and of the miraculous, teeming variety of the land itself.
Publisher: University of Wisconsin Press