The Earth is Enough
Harry Middleton, 1989
Pruett Publishing Co.
It is the year 1965, a year rife with change in the world—and in the life of a boy whose tragic loss of innocence leads him to the healing landscape of the Ozarks. Haunted by indescribable longing, twelve-year-old Harry is turned over to two enigmatic guardians, men as old as the hills they farm and as elusive and beautiful as the trout they fish for—with religious devotion.
Seeking strength and purpose from life, Harry learns from his uncle, grandfather and their crazy Sioux neighbor, Elias Wonder, that the very pulse of life beats from within the deep constancy of the earth, and from one's devotion to it. Amidst the rhythm of an ancient cadence, Harry discovers his home: a farm, a forest, a mountain stream, and the eye of a trout rising. (From the publisher.)
• Birth—December 28, 1949
• Death—July 28, 1993
• Where—Birmingham, Alabama, USA
• Education—B.A., Northwestern State University (Louisiana);
M.A., Louisian State University
Harry Middleton was a southern American nature writer, most noted for his book The Earth is Enough (1989).
Little is known about Middleton's life other than the information he offered through his novels. Middleton died a garbage man in the summer of 1993. He had previously worked as an outdoors columnist for Southern Living magazine, but it is speculated that their firing of him spurred a depression which helped lead to his demise. Prior to working at Southern Living, Middleton wrote in the early 1980s for Louisiana Life. His column of personal observations, entitled "Louisiana At Large," included essays such as "The Day the Spider Died," and "The Boy's First Brush with Education."
Middleton was an English major at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and earned a master's degree in Western history at Louisiana State University in 1973. His thesis: Frontier outpost: a history of Fort Jesup, Louisiana, 1822-1846.
He lived in New Orleans, where he wrote about food, art, music and books for Figaro, an alternative newspaper. He later moved to Birmingham.
Harry Middleton is also widely considered to be the best American fishing writer of all time. His signed books command the highest prices of any outdoor writer. His first novel, The Earth is Enough, was published in 1989. (From Wikipedia.)
lHis warmly elegiac memoir shows that in the modern world, madness may be saner than sanity.
Los Angeles Times
His masterpiece, a haunted and haunting memoir of growing up in the Ozarks with two eccentric old men as guardians, both of whom are dedicated fly fishers. He left a legacy that demonstrated both his awareness of mortality and his appreciation of how fishing could momentarily stay it.
Fly Rod and Reel
At the age of 14, as the country drifted into war in Vietnam, the author was sent to live with his great uncle and his grandfather on a farm in the Ozarks. In a world far removed from global events, these kind old men, content with solitude and a meager subsistence scraped from the land, occupied their time reading, trout fishing and steadfastly refusing to make concessions to modern technology. They measured the success of their resistance to change by the amount of disapproval they elicited from their God-fearing neighbors, the local preacher and the state agricultural agent, all of whom failed to indoctrinate the pair in the paths of righteousness and profitable farming. Middleton, outdoors columnist for Southern Living magazine, writes with humor and compassion of these witty and articulate eccentrics who changed his life and taught him to love and respect the earth and its creatures.
As the United States got involved in the Vietman war, Middleton's military father sent 14-year-old Harry to live with his grandfather in rural Arkansas. There Middleton, now outdoors columnist for Southern Living magazine, discovered the wonders of living a life close to nature. His grandfather shared a farm with two other men, and the trio strove to protect the farm from the 20th century. They taught Middleton the value of a simple life, yet also instilled in him a yearning for knowledge and a love of good books. He recalls hours spent in the woods and fishing for trout in the stream that flowed through the farm. Using the trout as a metaphor for all things wild, Middleton manages to weave together his boyhood memories with a profound respect for the natural world. An understated, evocative work. Recommended.—Randy Dykhuis, OCLC, Dublin, Ohio
Poetically written, filled with neat anecdotes and salty reflections—warm and wonderful.
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:
Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The Earth is Enough:
1. Is this book about fly fishing?
2. Other than fly fishing, what else do Harry's mentors teach him? Why is he in need of their lessons? What are some of the simple wisdoms offered?
3. Describe Harry's mentors—grandfather, uncle and Elias Wonder. Out of the three, do you have a particular favorite? In what ways are these three out-of-step with other residents of the town?
4. Talk about fly fishing as a metaphor for life...and why so many fine authors—Hemingway, Norman MacClean, David James Duncan—have written moving tributes to it.
5. Middleton speaks of "the hopeless addiction to trout and the push of water against your legs." And Uncle Albert wonders, "should any man turn his back on ambition, profit, security, and a parking place in the city, just to pursue a fish? Why is this sport so addictive...what is its lure?
6. How do you view the way of life described so lovingly in this book? Is it something to value? Is it still in existence... under threat...already gone? (If gone, what has taken its place?)
7. If you're a devotee of fly fishing, does Middleton's book teach you anything new about the sport? If you're not a fan, did you, nonetheless, enjoy reading about the sport? What else do you find of value in this work?
8. In what way is this a coming-of-age story? What does Harry come to learn about himself, the adult world, and his place in that world?
9. Talk about the significance of the title, The Earth Is Enough.
10. Does it color your reading of his book to know that Middleton struggled with severe clinical depression and took his own life?
11. Do you find Middleton's character portrayals black and white—that his mentors are perfect while all others are suspicious, slovenly or in some way unpleasant?
12. What other books have you read that are similar to The Earth is Enough? How does this book stack up against those works?
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)
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