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His First, Best Country by Jim Wayne Miller

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It was so much fun to read this novel because I had heard Jim Wayne tell so many of the episodes in this book as personal reminiscences. Jim Wayne Miller (1936-1996) was one of a bare handful of people who established the sub-genre of Appalachian Literature. A poetry book he published during President Jimmy Carter's fuel-saving 55 MPH era was actually entitled Nostalgia for 70 because he spent so much time traveling around the region promoting our literature. Jim Wayne's readings were unique - despite the fact that he had many books out, and was one of our foremost poets - what he read was the works of others, both well-known and obscure. One reason he drove so many miles was that his job was Professor of German at Western Kentucky University, quite a ways from the rural outskirts of Asheville where he grew up and Berea Coilege where he got his undergraduate degree. Jim Wayne Miller was one of a handful of people who really established the literary field of Appalachian Literature. Whenever I give a presentation on Appalachian Literature, I always start by reading an excerpt from "The Brier Sermon" from his poetry collection, The Mountains Have Come Closer.  Joyce Dyer wrote in The Appalachian Journal, "Jim Wayne Miller is wonderful when he goes to the core of what is most painful and most difficult about our relationship to home, about our relationship to the land that has sustained us, to the people that have loved or tried to love us, to our neighbors, and to ourselves."

Frankfort: Gnomon Press, 1993. Trade paperback.