Following in the tradition the Foxfire books that began in 1972 to preserve and celebrate the culture of Southern Appalachia, this new volume collects 30 essays on the contemporary bootleggers, bear hunters, game wardens, medicine women, and other unique characters that call the region home.
While the book is certainly reminiscent of older Foxfire books, diehard fans expecting more of the same will not find it. Few people we meet here, for instance, exhibit the profound competency shown by so many subjects in the original publications ... the pieces read like segments from a televised Sunday-morning news magazine: a little nostalgia, some curious doings by interesting people, a step outside the mainstream—Osgood and Kuralt. That’s a bit disappointing to a fan of the old books, and one might be tempted to conclude that the stories of the people in the book are somehow therefore less important. But not so fast ... The new Foxfire book...is still about making things but less concerned with whether they’re of any use. Sometimes...it can be hard to peg down why the subject is being presented at all, but still you get pulled in ... some of the old idiosyncratic spirit remains.
Travels with Foxfire carries on the tradition [of the original Foxfire project] and provides a bridge to a more modern-day way of life. Such stories as the revival and restoration of a drive-in theater in Rabun County, Georgia, give both a feel for the drive-in theater that was and an enjoyable story about how this entertainment venue can be revitalized and expanded to fulfill other local needs ... Unfortunately, Travels is lacking in some respects. The detailed descriptions of how to create things is often missing. While Travels devotes eight pages to a few stories about moonshining episodes, The Foxfire Book (volume one of the original series) spends 45 pages (complete with photos and diagrams) on the construction and operation of a still. Traditional music gets somewhat better coverage ... The authors may have felt it unnecessary to repeat much of the detail found in earlier volumes, but some material on current instrument producers and changes in technique would have proved informative ... The book serves as a useful addition to the Foxfire body of literature and furnishes some transitions from an older way of life to a modern setting.
This low-key travelogue is especially timely, providing (largely nonpolitical) insight into the lives of hardworking people in coal country who desperately hope for better job opportunities. Some readers may be surprised by the breadth of material encompassed here; there are some chapters on African-American artistry and some on award-winning regional cooking (often including recipes). The collection ends abruptly, with no closing chapter, but anyone with an interest in Americana, history, or nature will appreciate these poignant and enjoyable stories of shared knowledge and traditions.