Wednesday, August 22, 2018

On the River


This fun little nonfiction book by Bill Belleville gives a "behind the scenes" look at the making of a PBS documentary with literary origins: Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' trip on the St. Johns River with her friend, Dessie Smith, in 1933, the subject of a chapter in her fictionalized memoir, Cross Creek.

Rawlings was suffering from doldrums after the end of her marriage, and a camping trip on the river was just the thing to put her back on her path with renewed vigor. Smith was an experienced outdoorswoman -- but still, imagine the novelty of two women alone on a boat trip in the Florida frontier, 85 years ago! How wild and beautiful it must have been!

Rediscovering Rawlings, A River and Time contains stories and photos from both trips, giving lighthearted insight into the logistics of movie-making, backstory on bits and pieces of Florida history, and conversations that didn't make it into the movie. It's a nice addition to my Florida collection, which includes the movie itself on DVD and a CD of the movie soundtrack, original music written and performed by Jennifer Chase, one of the stars. I'll be keeping this one!

Excerpt:

We are off now, Jennifer and Leslie in their boat, moving away from the shore at idle speed, headed around and under the low HW 50 bridge into a cut that will take them into a channel of the St. Johns. Nothing in any movie is ever done on the first take, even a documentary, and so we try this launch scenario several times. The sun rises higher in the sky. I am anxious to be on the water. Finally, all is right and we launch for real, Duff Swan of the water management district at the helm of the district's platform boat, and the gals in their craft with [cameraman] Tom Postel and myself. Leslie comes up with the perfect take on the trip: "Rawlings used to say, 'No fool, no fun.' So hopefully we're fools with lots of fun . . . ." 

I counted this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

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