In the late 1960s, another desperate time, historian Michael Lesy took a long look at fin-de-siècle America. Examining a collection of several thousand glass plate negatives and historical documents from Jackson County, Wisconsin, he concocted a sprawling treatise on a past that had been willfully forgotten, a brooding rejoinder to Edgar Lee Masters's Spoon River Anthology. First published in 1973, Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip, now reissued in a handsome paperbound edition, became a key text of the counterculture, a book to shelve alongside Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Custer Died for Your Sins--and it sometimes reads like a hip product of its time. Lesy documents the unsettling record of one small corner of rural America, turning up accounts of barn burnings, attacks by gangs of armed tramps, threatening and obscene letters, death by diphtheria and smallpox (the Wisconsin townsfolk had, some years, to attend several funerals a week), alcoholism, madness, business and bank failures, and even a case or two of witchcraft.
After reading Lesy's texts and viewing the sometimes unsettling images he's turned up, you would be forgiven for thinking that no one in small-town Wisconsin in our great-great-grandparents' time was well-adjusted--which is, of course, not the case. Hyperbole notwithstanding, this is a remarkable study, one that Lesy himself rightly calls an experiment in both history and alchemy. --Gregory McNamee
Utterly fascinating book with terrible morbid overtones that really makes you wonder. Gleaned from a treasure trove of old photographs (thousands found and thankfully saved from... Read morePublished 15 days ago by Garnet
Very interesting to start out, but it became repetitive about half way through. People were miserable back then. There is no such thing as the good old days.Published 4 months ago by Kenneth E. Hundrieser
This book hadn't been available for years and finally was published again. If you ever wondered if "the good old days" were so great, this book shows you how tough you had... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Carol Reins
As powerful and fascinating as it was when it debuted nearly 40 years ago. Unlike any other book you have ever read.Published 6 months ago by Sir Robert