Biography Tells of Fellowship among Writers

By James E Casto Wv Book Team | Sunday Gazette-Mail, November 26, 2017 | Go to article overview

Biography Tells of Fellowship among Writers


James E Casto Wv Book Team, Sunday Gazette-Mail


In the 1920s, James Still and Jesse Stuart met as students at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. The men would go on to become two of the most beloved and important writers in Appalachian literature. Over the years, they would be friendly - and sometimes not so friendly - rivals.

The bond between the two men is one of the many topics explored in "James Still - A Life (University Press of Kentucky, $40), a new biography of a man who has been called the "dean of Appalachian literature.

Encyclopedic in its scope, the 584-page volume is written by Carol Boggess, a retired professor of English who had the good fortune to meet and befriend Still in the last decade of his life. (He was 94 when he died in 2001.)

A poet, novelist and folklorist, Still lived most of his life in a log house along the Dead Mare Branch of Little Carr Creek, in Knott County, Kentucky. He's perhaps best known for his 1940 novel "River of Earth, which depicted the struggles of subsistence farmers and coal miners in Eastern Kentucky.

For much of his life, Still was closely associated with the Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky. He also taught at Morehead State University.

Jesse Stuart (1906-1984) was born in W-Hollow, near Riverton, Kentucky, and lived there his whole life, except for his college years and later when he was traveling abroad. But his visits to Huntington and the Marshall University campus were so frequent that many in the community looked at him as one of their own.

He became a teacher before leaving the classroom to work full-time as a writer. While still a college student, he began writing stories and poems about the hill people in his section of Kentucky.

Stuart's poetry collection, "Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow, was published in 1934 and was widely acclaimed. "Taps for Private Tussie (1943), his best-known novel, sold more than a million copies in only two years. A prolific writer, he went on to publish dozens of books and hundreds of poems and short stories. …

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