- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (June 1, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1585745545
- ISBN-13: 978-1585745548
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jerusalem Creek: Journeys into Driftless Country Hardcover – June 1, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
"It is a truism among anglers that the deepest affections attach to first waters. They become our private archetypes.... The images of people, the reflections of other times and places are mirrored in a silver surface, and fishing becomes a form of memory, and memory a form of return." Angling essayist and Oregon State University English professor Leeson's new collection of essays (after Habit of Rivers) returns to the waters he's known since childhood, the spring creeks in southern Wisconsin's pastoral "driftless country." The landscape is an Ice Age geologic anomaly, untouched by glaciers and composed of narrow valleys, coves, hollows and small creeks full of trout. Leeson's finely woven recollections and thoughtful meditations on the natural world drive these essays, as he considers everything from bees to Amish farms to the special qualities of trout fishermen. He recalls becoming a fishing fanatic at the age of 14, describes his favorite fishing companions (his brother and their old childhood friend, nicknamed "Lizard") and tells of a medieval custom called "beating the bounds," in which older villagers taught young boys the limits of their rural hamlet by banging their heads against trees and other boundary markers. Occasionally Leeson's reveries drift into vague sentimentality, but for the most part he keeps them grounded with anecdotes and facts about the natural history and geography of his native region.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* Spring creeks (streams rising from subsurface aquifers) loom large in Leeson's angling life, even though less than one-thousandth of all trout water flows in them. This book's 15 essays explore the spring creeks that Lesson has fished in "Driftless country" on the Illinois-Wisconsin border, a region mysteriously spared alteration by the great Wisconsin glaciers. Although spring creeks and Wisconsin geography are somewhat arcane subjects, Leeson brings them alive with style and insight in this remarkable memoir, one of the last books edited by angling great Nick Lyons. Leeson's writing displays the same thoughtfulness and beauty evident in his first book, Habit of Rivers (1994), but this time the pace is faster, and there is more wit. Remarkably, there is no fishing in the book's first third, and when Leeson does describe his forays into the spring creeks, it is always without jargon and with a vivid sense of place and context. The text is peppered with allusions to books and films (Hemingway and Hitchcock's The Birds); marvelous reflections on Wisconsin farms, taverns, cows, and cheese; references to English writers Halford and Skues, also devotees of spring creeks; and even a touch of baseball. Like the best fishing books, his account transcends its topic; its audience should be not just those who read the great fishing writers (Lyons, Barich, Gierach) but also those who savor the nonfiction of Annie Dillard, John McPhee, and William Least Heat-Moon. John Rowen
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Top customer reviews
Throughout the book's journey, we remember along with him, back to youthful days and times spent with good friends. While the author admits he might not be much of a fisherman -- his first attempt at casting practice in his backyard snagged a small boy from the neighborhood -- he's good at sharing his memories and life observations with us. He paints scenes with words to give us landscapes based in text, not oils. Jerusalem Creek and Emerald Creek (sobriquets to protect their real identities) contained "trout of the usual two varieties: the kind we could catch, which were scarce, and the kind we could not, which were abundant." Stream-side attacks by territorial red-winged blackbirds were not uncommon. Now living in Oregon, this displaced Cheesehead still waxes poetic about his homeland: "[T]hough the state may not be precisely in the middle of the country, the human heart too is somewhat north and east of center."
One gets the distinct impression that Leeson wrote this book as a tribute to a brother now gone. Though the topic is not fully addressed, there are hints at loss and at having "a hole in your heart." And that's OK, the way it reads. If he relayed his personal history to us over a few cold ones in a nearby tavern, we'd probably be polite enough not to ask the direct questions. But we'd always wonder what really happened. And here the reader is also kept wondering.
When Leeson and his comrades return as adults to fish in Jerusalem Creek, the memories and realities come full circle. They see that while things are not quite the same, it is not necessarily the place that is different.
I think the story should appeal to people who've never fished the spring creeks of WI but just enjoy a wonderfully told story about a kid growing up fishing familiar streams whose now long removed from those streams but the streams never leave your memories.