Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Lee Smith: The Devil's Dream

Lee Smith's The Devil's Dream (originally published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1992) covers an Appalachian family's multi-generational arc from from the 1830s through the 1960s or thereabouts.  

The main dilemma for many of the characters is: 

Should I stay or should I go?

And, closely related: 

Should I adhere to music, or shun it?


Should I follow the belief system I was born into, discard it, or modify it as I go along?

Around the world -- then and now and most likely well into the future -- many say "Music is the Devil's work. A sin." Frown. Some will say, "gospel music -- good." All other kinds of music -- "bad." Add alcohol and whatnot into the matrix, and you hear more of the same, only in even more outlandish tones. In some places, your very head is at risk depending on what you do or believe. 

I knew a Dunker from West Virginia who said that salt was sinful, alcohol evil, but NASCAR ok. This was his interpretation of the gospel life, as guided by the Holy Ghost. 

The Devil's Dream (which is also the name of a fiddle tune going back maybe 200 years) inspires me to think of various social archetypes that address that existential quandary, "Should I stay or should I go?" It's almost comical when you think in terms of such identifiable archetypes.

In no particular order, there are:

a. Those who stay in one place and never leave.

b. Those who stay in one place but travel some, near or far (including perhaps a stint of military service or some such).

c. Those who stay in one place but annually or seasonally migrate to another place or two, such as live in the mountains but migrate to the seaside or vice versa.

d. Those who migrate from place to place, travel around and periodically visit the old places.

e. Those who leave their place of origin and never come back.

I know and have known all of these archetypes, in the guises of real people. I'm pretty much of the "d" variety. How about you? 

Another thing I want to tackle thanks to The Devil's Dream is race and ethnicity in the Appalachians -- from the Melungeons to the Black Dutch, from the Black Irish to the Cherokee Nation -- and beyond. Brace yourself.

Today's Rune: Fertility. 


Tom Sarmo said...

Troublesomely fascinating post. Btw, I'm B (Modified Hobbit).

Charles Gramlich said...

I tend to stay in one place a long time, with occassional visits home. But then experience a move.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I am of the "d" persuasion, myself. And I have always found it fascinating to ponder why some choose to stay and some to go (and all options in between). Is it curiosity, opportunity, or the search for one's "true" home that makes us pack up our bags?