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Literary fiction, classics, dystopian, history, memoir, prize winners, and of course the 1001 books. You really might catch me reading anything!

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Empire of Cotton: A Global History
Sven Beckert
Progress: 220/656 pages

Honey in The Horn

Honey in the Horn - Harold L. Davis

Honey in the Horn won the Pulitzer in 1936. And now no one has heard of it—and even my amazing library only has one circulating copy.

 

Before I started this book, I worried and wondered. Why has it virtually disappeared? Is it hopelessly dated? Boring? Just not up to par?

 

After finishing, I suspect this book was simply overshadowed by Grapes of Wrath, which won the Pulitzer just 4 years later (1940). In many ways these books are similar--both look at travelers looking for a good place to make a go of life. Both look at environmental catastrophes, and both take place in the 20th century.

 

Grapes of Wrath, however, tackled a much larger environmental catastrophe that sent thousands and thousands onto the road and traveling thousands of miles. Honey in the Horn looks at a small area in Oregon, where similar land overuse and stripping ruined much smaller areas, sending settlers on for a new place. And, obviously, when Grapes of Wrath was published, much of the public could relate to the book--they had seen the travelers, or had dust from hundreds of miles away dumped on their own homes, read the papers, saw pictures. Honey in the Horn takes place 1904–1906—30 years earlier—in Oregon.

 

But this book is good. Not great. Davis's main character is Clay Calvert, an orphan raised by a man who took in many orphans to work his land. He flees after doing that man a favor that did not work out as expected. On the road, he picks hops, works a wheat harvest, hunts, meets a woman, works with her horse trader father, and just keeps moving. There is no strong tie pulling it all together--which is just how Clay feels.

 

Davis best sections are where his sarcasm comes out. He mocks land dealers who sold plots in non-existent towns, promising the railroad. He mocks work gang leaders who had no qualifications other than greed. He mocks gossipy settlers. He clearly feels anger for the ranchers who ran so many cattle the grass was destroyed, so they ran sheep who ate the centuries-long turf buildup, and then left for new pastures when the rich valleys were destroyed.

 

And this book is dated. His descriptions of the various Indian groups would not stand up to modern expectations; but I was impressed by his knowledge (or the settlers') of the many, many related yet different tribal groups.

 

Definitely an interesting book, if not a great one. I can, though, see how it did win a Pulitzer.