Mountain Musingsrnby Gregory McNameernFlat Rock Journalrnby Ken CareyrnSan Francisco: Harper San Francisco;rn230 pp., $18.00rnThe Ozark Mountains make up anrnarea that American literature hasrnlargely passed by, leaving it the provincernof folklore and song, of homespun storiesrnthat seldom make their way to the lowlands.rnKen Carey’s fine new book aboutrnthe region. Flat Rock journal, fills a greatrnvoid, and not simplv because with a literaturernso tiny it has few peers.rnDeep within the briar-tangled Missourirnhighlands, Carey has spent the betterrnpart of the last three decades well.rnHe has raised children without having tornworry about guns, gangs, and drugs; hernhas fed his family largely on food that hernhas grown in the flourishing gardens ofrnhis 80-acre farm, fulfilling the Kentuckyrnfarmer-poet Wendell Berry’s prescriptionrnfor a righteous life that too few peoplernin our urban culture can follow.rnAlong the way he has paid careful attentionrnto his surroundings, contemplatingrnthe mores of the mountain people (whornemerge as far more complex, and farrnmore interesting, than the L’il Abnerrnstereotypes outsiders have long beenrnfed), campaigning against logging companiesrnthat clear-cut the Ozarks’ oldgrowthrnforests without regard for thernhealth of the land, and pondering thernmysteries of the universe.rnCarey, a born essayist, is especiallyrngood at giving us a glimpse of daily realityrnin the mountains; to his evident dismav,rnone of these realities is the ratio ofrnreptilian to human life. “Copperheads,”rnhe writes, “outnumber people in thernOzarks by such an extraordinary ratiornthat most of us hope we neer learn justrnwhat it is. They are not only our mostrncommon snake, they are, in all probabilitv,rnour most common animal. I killedrnthirty of them in the yard around ourrnhouse the first summer we lived here,rnall within a few feet of our living area.”rnThe argument wheels; so much killmgrnsets Carey, who leans toward Zen Buddhism,rnto examine his feelings about lifernand death, about killing and dying. Hernevcntuallv arrives at an answer satisfactoryrnto him: “The kill-nothing philosophyrnis sublime. But in the Ozarks anyonernexhibiting so pacific a temperament duringrnsummer months would soon berncompost.” Compost is good for therntomato beds, he admits, but Carey hasrnlarger plans for himself and his famih’.rnHis philosophical excursions on thesernand other country matters make forrnthoughtful reading.rnThoughtful, not somber. Careyrnavoids taking himself too seriously. Indeed,rnmanv of his sketches of rural lifernare a stitch, as a country storyteller’s talesrnshould be, as when he recounts an exchangernbetween two old-time dowsersrnarguing o’er where to dig a new well forrnhis farm, “critiquing one another’s methods,rnconcurring on some points, differingrnon others, arguing less vehcmentlv asrntime went on, until at last, they bothrnagreed on a spot.” He is just as good inrnrelating his encounter with a suspiciousrngrubstake miner who manages to keep arnstep ahead of the pursuing Forest Service,rnfrom whose holdings he aims to digrnup a small, yet alwa s evasive, fortune.rnCarey, a Berkelcv student in thern1960’s, uses his rural vantage to criticizernthe larger society beyond the Ozarks’rngates; those criticisms, however, lack thernrancor and illiberality of his youthfulrnbent. Sometimes his observations arernquite striking. “Seven years without radio,rntelevision, or newspapers made itrnclear to me that until then I had been livingrnin a world defined by values otherrnthan my own, a wodd of description,rnhanded down to me by family, culture,rnand the language through which I wasrntaught to filter my impressions.” (There:rnin 50-odd words Carey distills the wholernpoint of Bill McKibben’s recent bookrnThe Age of Missing Information, a sometimesrnlong-winded excursus in mediarncriticism.) Other of Carey’s remarks canrnbe a little dippy: “I have many suits, thisrnhuman dress but one.” Fortunately,rnthose lapses are rare.rnTo judge by his book. Ken Carey hasrnfound a true home for himself and hisrnfamily in this neglected corner of America,rnhi the Ozarks, he notes with satisfaction,rnpoverty becomes a kind ofrnwealth. If the land were easier of access,rnit would have been stripped bare, likernmuch of the comparatively gentle Appalachiansrnto the east. Poor though theyrnmay be, the Missouri highlands havernbeen good to Ken Carey, giving him thernfooting for an always engaging memoir,rnfull of re’erence for nature and the goodrnlife in the spirit of Henry David Thoreaurn—and of William Shakespeare,rnwhose ideal human, like Carey, “Findsrntongues in trees, books in the runningrnbrooks. Sermons in stone, and good inrneverything.”rnGregory McNamee’s most recent book isrnGila: The Life and Death of anrnAmerican River (Crown).rnIs Race the Problem?rnIs the illusion of equality destroying America?rnAn American Renaissance conference, May 28-30rnWhat is the role of race in our nation’s greatestrnproblems — crime, poverty, illegitimacy, immigration, culturalrndecay? The current taboo against honest discussionrnof race makes the search for real solutions impossible.rnPlease join us in Atlanta on Memorial Day weekend (Mayrn28-30) for a conference on the real American dilemma.rnSpeakers will include America’s most original thinkersrnon race: Samuel Francis (contributing editor, Chronicles),rnProf. Michael Levin (City College of New York), JosephrnSobran (syndicated columnist), Jared Taylor (author),rnFr. Ronald Tacelli, S. J. (Boston College).rnFor information, write or call: American Renaissance,rnBox 1674, Louisville, KY 40201 (502) 637-9324rnMAY 1994/39rnrnrn