The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Heart of the Blue Ridge

Blue Ridge Bookshelf - September, 1984

By Parks Lanier, Jr. © 1984

Issue: September, 1984

SWEET HOLLOW: Stories by Lou Crabtree. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge 70893. 106 pages. $14.95 cloth; $8.95 paper.

Issued only six months ago, this collection is already in its second printing, and Lou Crabtree is working on a second book for LSU Press. It is easy to see why SWEET HOLLOW has been such a success. Reading the seven short stories is like following seven forks of a mountain stream. Sometimes the water is bubbly and rushing; sometimes it is slow and placid. Sometimes it is sweet and cold; sometimes it is dark and brackish. Each stream is unique, and each is enticing.

The best thing about the SWEET HOLLOW stories is that they have a voice. It is a voice which I have come to know and love, after meeting Lou Crabtree and hearing her read. But every reader will sense this voice, strong and assured. In a time when short stories seem to lack any voice at all except some whine or whimper from a jaded writer who is tired of life, it is exhilarating to hear this voice from the mountains of southwest Virginia. I hope that the editors in Baton Rouge have the good sense and good taste to let this voice sing its woodnotes wild, and not tamper or "editorialize" too much.

Novelist Lee Smith is on record as being very fond of the opening line of "Holy Spirit" which goes, "Old Rellar had thirteen miscarriages and she named all of them." I like that story too, but my favorite is "Homer-Snake," and he's my favorite character in the whole book. I, too, want the power to see Old Homer-Snake among the daisies in the sky, standing up on his blunt tail, laughing at me.

I wonder what the sophisticated critics in New York will make of "The Miracle in Sweet Hollow," that rare Christmas story full of sentiment without being sentimental, or "The Jake Pond," where a boy sees beauty because his eyes have not been corrupted.

The mystic William Blake hoped to see the world in a grain of sand. People thought he was crazy. Lou Crabtree has done it, and we would be crazy not to acclaim her achievement. She has enlivened an art form that seemed turgid and ugly like the "Jake Pond", for she has dared to seek beauty where no one else would go.

(SWEET HOLLOW, Lou Crabtree of Abingdon, Virginia’s first book was published on her 70th birthday.)