Old Man River: Book summary and reviews of Old Man River by Paul Schneider

Old Man River

The Mississippi River in North American History

By Paul Schneider

Old Man River
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2013,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

In Old Man River, Paul Schneider tells the story of the river at the center of America's rich history - the Mississippi. Some fifteen thousand years ago, the majestic river provided Paleolithic humans with the routes by which early man began to explore the continent's interior. Since then, the river has been the site of historical significance, from the arrival of Spanish and French explorers in the 16th century to the Civil War. George Washington fought his first battle near the river, and Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman both came to President Lincoln's attention after their spectacular victories on the lower Mississippi.

In the 19th century, home-grown folk heroes such as Daniel Boone and the half-alligator, half-horse, Mike Fink, were creatures of the river. Mark Twain and Herman Melville led their characters down its stream in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Confidence-Man. A conduit of real-life American prowess, the Mississippi is also a river of stories and myth.

Schneider traces the history of the Mississippi from its origins in the deep geologic past to the present. Though the busiest waterway on the planet today, the Mississippi remains a paradox - a devastated product of American ingenuity, and a magnificent natural wonder.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Another chockablock, environmentally focused, ambitious volume from Schneider...A wild ride well worth taking." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. With such an expert hand on the tiller, Old Man River is an astonishing journey." - Publishers Weekly

"Nonfiction lovers with eclectic tastes and readers bored by a single-discipline approach will love Schneider's multiple-angle portrait of the Mississippi watershed. The territory Schneider studies is what some dismiss as "flyover country," but what fascinating stories "flyover country" has to tell!" - Booklist

"Paul Schneider recounts history as a novelist might. Once you start one of his books, you find yourself unable to put it down. As I read his story of the Mississippi, I feel like I am revisiting early America on board a raft with Huck and Tom and runaway Jim. I think Mark Twain would be one of the first to congratulate Mr. Schneider on his splendid new book." - James Lee Burke

"I have heard and sung the painful ballad 'Old Man River,' since my childhood in the 40's, but it was only when I read Paul Schneider's Old Man River, I took a deeper look at the Mississippi River and truly understood with greater clarity how, as the author puts it, 'the river's history is our history.' Travelling with Paul Schneider's words and heart is an eye-opening adventure well worth taking." - Charlayne Hunter-Gault, author of In My Place

"A terrific, wonderfully written account of the river, the peoples past and present who lived there, what they loved and what they loathed (often foreigners), how they lived and died and explored and ought in the Old Man's shadow. His tale unfolds from the beginning of north American time and it's the best detective story you'll read this year." - Ward Just, author of An Unfinished Season and Exiles in the Garden

"A fascinating and passionate profile of the river that shaped American history and culture." - Rosemary Mahoney, author of Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman's Skiff

"Vividly peopled and comprehensively marshaled, this account makes a fine and flowing read, summarizing the ineffable." - Edward Hoagland, author of Notes from the Century Before and Sex and the River Styx

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Paul Schneider is the acclaimed author of Bonnie and Clyde, Brutal Journey, The Enduring Shore, and The Adirondacks, a New York Times Book Review Notable Book. He and his wife, the photographer Nina Bramhall, and their son, Nathaniel, divide their time between Bradenton, Florida, and West Tisbury, Massachusetts.

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