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Books - The Illinois (Rivers of America)

The Illinois by James Gray
University of Illinois Press (1989)

This was one of the early books in the Rivers of America series, originally published in 1940. The author was a playwright, and approaches the history of the Illinois River as a sort of stage play, with powerful characters making their entrances, brief lines and then retiring to the wings as history sweeps ever onward.

The river itself is a bit pushed to the background as a simple stage set, and the author doesn't seem too concerned about really bringing the scenery alive as part of the story. Many of the characters appear painted with a broad brush, and their motivations and particulars are only described as benefits the march of progress up the Illinois Valley, instead of what their particular goals might have been. Many of the minor players serve only to make the road level for the Great Men of Illinois: Marquette and Lincoln.

This approach does do well to dramatize the historical events of Illinois as a moving play, but because the characters are never fully fleshed out, the drama seems stiff and a bit unconvincing. The author seems to have done most of his research in the library reading the classics, and less on the banks of the river itself, getting to know and feel the muddy waters that must have flown through the blood of those early settlers of Illinois.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 2, 2008 11:25 PM.

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