PrairyErth (A Deep Map)
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PrairyErth (The Travel Trilogy #2)

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  693 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Robert Penn Warren pronounced Heat-Moon's Blue Highways "a masterpiece." Now Heat-Moon has pulled to the side of the road and set off on foot to take readers on an exploration of time and space, landscape and history in the Flint Hills of central Kansas.
Paperback, 624 pages
Published February 15th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published 1991)
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Guido
Non so perché, circa tre anni fa iniziai improvvisamente a leggere questo libro. Immaginai, sfogliandolo e trovando tra le sue pagine alcune mappe, e quelli che sembravano gli aneddoti di un esploratore, che si trattasse di un libro di viaggio - un genere di narrativa a me molto caro; la presenza delle mappe, poi, alimentava la mia curiosità, infantile quanto basta per lasciarmi attrarre dai disegni, dai colori della copertina, dalle parole in lingue sconosciute. Bene, questo è un libro di viagg...more
Kate Lawrence
I spent 2-1/2 years reading this amazing book because I didn't want it to end. For an author to devote time over several years visiting and researching every corner of a single Kansas county, walking it, talking to the locals, and writing 622 pages about its landscape, history, and people was an elegant labor of love. His affection for the tallgrass prairie of the Flint Hills, what he calls the "most easterly piece of the American Far West," permeates every page. Some readers may not like the de...more
Mike
Maybe this is as close to landscape architecture as a writer can get - a "deep map" of Chase County, Kansas that touches on nearly every aspect of the terrain there: the people, the history, the vegetation, the infrastructure, and even a map detailing the watershed of the area. I need to read it several more times before I can determine if it is a five-star book. I enjoyed his "Blue Highways" book more, but I think this book might be more monumental. My favorite chapters were the ones on Osage O...more
Andrew
What the hell is it? Travel? Environmental writing? Sociology? If I had to guess, I would say that Least Heat-Moon's response would be that it's all of the above and none of them, that all of these are unnecessary categories imposed on lived experience. And he would be correct. It's so fully integrated and freewheeling that the only thing that unifies it is its profound sense of place. Which happens, weirdly, to be a place I'm very familiar with-- Chase County, Kansas, where I spent some small s...more
Boreal Elizabeth
This was the first Heat Moon book I read and loved it! If you are into minute details of land and maps and people and history and society and have the patience to walk in that landscape one step at a time and can feel the wind move and know it's moving something deep inside without you really wanting it to or knowing what the result may be then this one's for you. HM takes some pretty dry material and enfuses it with deep meaning beyond the surface facts. The steady accretion of details builds t...more
Lee Trampleasure
An amazing insight into a small rural county. I had the pleasure of visiting Chase County for a few days in 2006, and asked "how true" the book was. I was told that while it has its inaccuracies, the general trend was accurate (of course, the book is now about 20 years old, so things have clearly changed). If you make it to Chase County, be sure to stop by the Emma Chase Cafe in Strong City.
Jennie
Nov 01, 2007 Jennie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of the landscape and storytelling
Shelves: my-library
One of my favorite books of all time. This book greatly aided me in my transition to living in the vast middle of the United States, and helped me appreciate its beauty and storied history. I visited the region described in this book a number of times during my 5 years in the Midwest, and it was amazing to go there after reading this book. I have read and reread it.
Gregg Bell

Least Heat-Moon is a magician. How anybody could take a county in Kansas and turn it into a fascinating, edifying, educating read is beyond me. But he did. You don't have to look far to get the feel that this book is a work of art. The cover itself is gorgeous. I remember reading the book gingerly because to damage the binding by opening it too wide would be tantamount to desecrating high art.



There's really no way to classify this book. It is part travelogue. Part interviews. Part anthology (co

...more
dirt
Oct 17, 2012 dirt rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those who are just trying to get through Kansas
Shelves: to-finish
Kansas to most people is Kansas as the Avett Brothers describe: as nowhere as I can be. To Least Heat-Moon Kansas is an ancient sea, a prairie sea, the great prairie desert, rivers, county lines, fire, home of the Kaw southwind people, and home of the frontier settlers. The tall prairie plains are a seldom acknowledged part of our history and ecosystem. For most people, me included, Kansas is something to get through, but Least Heat-Moon takes the time to dissect, interject, and inspect what has...more
Paul Harris
A deep and lasting impression of a prairie county halfway along Highway 50, where the west begins, where the author senses a pervading Americana. I love William Least Heat Moon's books, and I took my time with this one - dipping in and out over months. It is so rich and varied - it has everything. Solid and absorbing, he builds a vivid picture of the characters who live in a place like Chase, Kansas, lived there, built it, worked it, farmed it, hunted it, sold it, crashed in it, and just about e...more
David
Perhaps I am lazy. Perhaps I am weak. But after 500-odd pages of this book (625 total) I really had to drop it and move-on. I need to say that I really enjoyed Blue Highways - I must have read it over a decade ago. And I have to give credit where it is due - the author's writing and style are commendable in this book. The prose is, at times, most beautiful and engaging. It was at times challenging too with a vocabulary that had me reaching for the dictionary at regular intervals. But this micros...more
Nick H
What a great way to follow up Blue Highways. I didn't know what to expect going into this "tome" dedicated to a single county in the lackadaisical southeastern Kansas. WLHM grids up the county, and cuts into each piece like it is it's own delicacy. Looking at the history, the geology, local newspapers, animals, plants, roads, railroads, tall tales, stories, buildings...you name it. On top of all, WLHM's witty sarcasm makes it feel less like homework, and more like a journey you take with him. Hi...more
Mj Harding
At around page 250 I was ready to stop reading the book--the prose seemed to plod along and I figured there was no shame in putting the book down; however, I kept reading and was rewarded later with some wonderful insights. After finishing the book, I can say that it was worth the earlier effort--the later sections deal with memory and dreams and really open up some interesting ways of thinking about place and our connection to it. This book is worth the time and will reward the persistent reade...more
Mary
I took a rest from this one in June, noting then
that it's "several inches thick but curiously enjoyable at a leisurely pace."

I went back to it in October and browsed in it
for a couple of weeks, soaking up the liveliest
mix of geography and history I've ever read, and
it was all about one county in Kansas! Fabulous
combination of archival research, personal inter-
views, and a walking acquaintance with the land.
Nice finding out how his "Blue Highways" came
about, too.
Vittorio Ducoli
Forse troppo lungo il brodo

Sicuramente il libro apre la mente alla conoscenza degli USA "profondi", e della poesia del nulla che caratterizza il midwest.
Forse, però, le stesse cose avrebbero potuto essere dette con qualche centinaio di pagine in meno.
catherine
Apr 30, 2007 catherine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone who lives in or drives through Kansas
Shelves: nonfiction
I assigned this as a class text to students when I was teaching in Kansas, it was a way to help them understand that their landscape wasn't empty nothingness but had a character and history all its own. I really enjoyed this, must dig it out and read it again.
Jonathan
I can't imagine a book that I would be less likely to not only read, but really enjoy, than PrairyErth. Never mind personal rule breaking books like The Book Thief or Gone Girl, but rather a pretty massive book of over 600 pages, which is a "deep map" of a single county in Kansas, of all places. Not too fond of the Midwest, really, but Least Heat-Moon, author of Blue Highways, spins a remarkable tale of history, land, religion, Native Americans, murder, bigotry and more. It kept me turning the p...more
Jim
Started reading this about 5 days ago. This is a huge departure from my usual read. Virtually all of my reads are Novels, Short Stories, and the occasional poetry. The Non-Fiction I read usually is related to my Non-Literary interests, such as Cartoons, Music, and the occasional, but currently infrequent Graphic Novel.

What inspired me to read this? Well, I had heard it mentioned favorably, along with Blue Highways (which I will have to probably get). I saw it at a thrift store for $2:00. I brow...more
Abigail
Like Heat-Moon's Blue Highways (which I loved), PrairyErth was a bit of a slog (it doesn't usually take me a month to finish a book), but well worth the effort. This is a portrait of Chase County, Kansas, but more than that it is a tribute -- to the prehistoric mountain ranges, the Kaw people, the abolitionists, the old-time farmers and ranchers, the teenagers of rural America, the land itself. Heat-Moon's writing wanders the old trails of the Flint Hills -- and there were definitely a few tange...more
Ned
Finally got a copy of this again after having lost the original given to me by a friend. Funny story that. I had lent that first copy to a co-worker. She put in on her refrigerator, out of the way, for safe-keeping. Never got around to reading it I guess. Wasn't too long after, her house burned down and everything in it. She kinda wanted to blame that on her boyfriend at the time. She lived out in the country then. Prairy Fire.
Years later I ran into the boyfriend. He was the new chef at a new re...more
Robert Maier
A great treatise on living in a small place, and clarifies many nasty aspects of American culture, from cruelty to native Americans and African-Americans, to general closed-mindedness and suspicion of anything different or new, to greed and self-centered psyches, to abuse of everything from religion to the environment. Not that these attributes are solely the province of the praries, but seeing them on a small, isolated scale illuminates one universal truth after another. This is why I live Will...more
Ralph Estes
Chase Co., Ks. Better than cutesy title would suggest. Ramblings on foot into every corner of county.
Ginny Sharkey
Least Heat-Moon's command of language, history, geology and imagination creates a tour de force with an unlikely subject, Chase County in Kansas. A travelogue through nine quadrants of a seemingly unremarkable locale, PrairyErth is a lesson in deep-seeing, mindfulness, and the wonder that can be uncovered in the ordinary. Like a long, slow, cool drink from a mint-lined creek, this book refreshes and awakens us to the every day phenomena that surround us, by uncovering the meaningful minutia that...more
Hope
A long book, a long time in the writing, a long time in the reading. Only a few times did I wish Heat-Moon would get on with it. Mostly, I wanted him to go even deeper into the land he was traveling, wanted to know more about the settlers and current denizens of Chase County Kansas. And, perhaps most importantly, this book made me want to actual travel to Kansas, not just through it, as I have before. And it makes me want to go to Nebraska and explore my maternal ancestral home on the prairie. T...more
Dan
An enjoyable read if a plod at times. Overall I can't help but agree with and be comforted by the authors message and perspective. If we don't learn to live in closer harmony with the earth we are doomed physically and spiritually. becoming so removed from what keeps us alive is bound to make us take it for granted at a high cost.

The message I liked, his method of communicating it was sometimes boring, sometimes engaging. I had to be content with a slow pace through this book...maybe there was a...more
Abby
Oct 05, 2012 Abby added it
This is a very self-indulgent book. C'mon, William, clean up your act. You know better. This didn't need to be 600 pages, and you can cut the vast bulk of reflection on reflecting. I hate when you can tell the amount of work that went into a mediocre product.

But I have to admit there is gold in them thar Flint Hills. A "deep map"--I love it, and I came out of the quotation sections with a long list of to-reads. I am constantly reminded how much this guy thinks along the same lines I do, even if...more
Monwar Hussain
This book is like nothing you have ever read. It deep-dissects a Kansas. It grows on you, grows on you, and then grows on you so much that you are actually afraid of finishing it. That's the stage I am in. It transports you, standard fare for great travel books. But then this is not a travel book, this can be more appropriately termed a 'Place Book'. A boring, nondescript Kansas county happens to be the place described. And Heat-Moon produces great travel-lit out of it. :)
Tags Taggart
I think this book is amazing. It's dense and slow and definitely takes dedication to get through -- the plot is abstract and esoteric with many loosely tied threads. But William Least Heat Moon's approach, the deep map of this county in Kansas, is so well executed and unusual, it makes for a fascinating portrait of a place, that travels through time and facts and people to create some very profound thoughts on what makes a community or environment or lines on a map.
Terry
Dec 24, 2008 Terry marked it as to-read
I bought PrairyErth, the second of William Least-Heat Moon's American travel trilogy, in 1993, and never read it. I don't know why. Maybe it seemed daunting because of its size, 624 pages. Who knows? I loved "Blue Highways," and liked "Riverhorse," the third in the series. Today I finished Peter Beagle's "I see by my outfit," and thought again of my fondness for "Blue Highways," and decided that now it was time to tackle PrairyErth.
Charlotte Sanders
I get the feeling I wouldn't want to be friends with the author, and the book dragged in quite a few places, but it gets four stars because I've recalled it many times over the years. Also learned a lot about the Midwest, history and geography. After you read it you should listen to Kate MacLeod's really good song that is also entitled "PrairyErth" (on the album "Trying to Get It Right"), inspired by the book.
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From wikipedia:

William Least Heat-Moon, byname of William Trogdon is an American travel writer of English, Irish and Osage Nation ancestry. He is the author of a bestselling trilogy of topographical U.S. travel writing.

His pen name came from his father saying, "I call myself Heat Moon, your elder brother is Little Heat Moon. You, coming last, therefore, are Least." Born in Kansas City, Missouri, H...more
More about William Least Heat-Moon...
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“Suddenly, over the slope, as if tethered to a cord of air drawing quickly upward, came a Northern Harrier, motionless but for its rising. So still was the bird - wings, tail, head - it might have been a museum specimen. Then, as if atop the wind, it slid down the ridge, tilted a few times, veered, tacked up the hill, its wings hardly shifting. I though, if I could be that hawk for one hour I'd never again be just a man.” 2 likes
“When the Populist congressman "Sockless" Simpson of Medicine Lodge, Kansas, misspelled his hometown while running for office, he said, "I wouldn't give a tinker's durn for a man who can't spell a word more than one way.” 1 likes
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