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A Son of the Middle Border

Hamlin Garland

Book Overview: 

In all the region of autobiography, so far as I know it, I do not know quite the like of Mr. Garland's story of his life, and I should rank it with the very greatest of that kind in literature. . . . It is the poet who sees the vast scale of human struggle with nature or the things she will withhold unless they are forced from her by man's tireless toil and mighty mechanism, and in the vision he knows a battle-joy as distinctive of this Son of the Middle Border as his fidelity to the sordid and squalid details of the campaign, or his exultation of the beauty of the West which he has so passionately hated and finally so passionately loves. As you read the story of his life you realize it the memorial of a generation, of a whole order of American experience; as you review it you perceive it an epic of such mood and make as has not been imagined before.(Introduction by William Dean Howells, New York Times review, August 26, 1917)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . . not receive anything deeper and finer, but it did, for father was saying, "Well, Dave, now for some tunes."

This was the best part of David to me. He could make any room mystical with the magic of his bow. True, his pieces were mainly venerable dance tunes, cotillions, hornpipes,—melodies which had passed from fiddler to fiddler until they had become veritable folk-songs,—pieces like "Money Musk," "Honest John," "Haste to the Wedding," and many others whose names I have forgotten, but with a gift of putting into even the simplest song an emotion which subdued us and silenced us, he played on, absorbed and intent. From these familiar pieces he passed to others for which he had no names, melodies strangely sweet and sad, full of longing cries, voicing something which I dimly felt but could not understand.

At the moment he was the somber Scotch Highlander, the true Celt, and as he bent above his instrument his black eyes glowing, his fine head . . . Read More

Community Reviews

Review originally published February 2019

I'd like to recommend to you a book that I prize. Of course, it is a title readily available through La Crosse County Library, but I actually purchased a copy of my own at the author's home in West Salem. A Son of the Middle Border by Hamlin Garland is an

Hamlin Garland does a remarkable job of capturing the homesteading experience on the Dakota plains. He lived it.

Found this on accident: didn't know it was written in the lofty florid prose of the turn of the last century. But it was still so very readable. And what's more (all this before I researched Garland)...it said "farm work is a horrible way to live if you can get anything better." That honestly was no

Here's a male version of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" experiences. Lke Wilder, Garland starts in Wisconsin where he was born and moves with his pioneer minded father and family several times, ending up in a Dakota (just like Laura). I'm remembering Cap Garland of Little House fame; are they

A sort of coming-of-age memoir, from the 19th century. The son of a civil war vet in the Midwest, Garland hated farming and the frontier, and was delighted to (after some adjustment) find a living in the city. Not much in the way of countryside paeans from him, though there was a lot of Georgism --

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