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Clear Springs

Clear Springs

Author(s): Bobbie Ann Mason

Location(s): Kentucky

Genre(s): Autobiography/Memoirs

Era(s): 1940s onwards

Bobbie Ann Mason’s marvelously tactile and textured memoir has the same blunt yet supple prose that distinguishes her novels In Country and Feather Crowns. Examining her roots in rural Kentucky, where she was born in 1940, Mason unravels her family’s history and considers its impact on her as a person and a writer. Readers of the New Yorker will recognize a few excerpts, most notably the magical chapter on a local pop group in particular, and the siren song of rock & roll in general. Mason has woven the pieces of her story into a seamless whole limning her ambivalent relationship to her country roots. She was a bookish girl who fled to college and the sophisticated North before realizing that her fictional material and her heart were still down South. But when she bought land in Kentucky, it was “a long way from [home]. I had to keep some distance, keep my options open.” Although her immediate family members all get loving, unsentimental treatment, the book is in essence a tribute to Mason’s mother, whose free spirit never had a chance to roam as her daughter’s did and who grabs center stage in the final chapter. This memoir is quintessential Mason in its strong storytelling, seeming simplicity, and deep mystery.

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