Divine Right's Trip: A Novel of the Counterculture~*~ Gurney Norman

Discussion in 'Beat and Hippie Books' started by Viola, May 15, 2005.

  1. Viola

    Viola Member

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    Well, I just read this book. It's actually the first book I read after finishing my literature degree. I'd been waiting all semester to read this book, I got it done in less than two days :)

    I'm suprised this book isn't somewhere on this website, I may be overlooking it though. Well, I'll give a little biographical info on it to begin with. I learned about this book in my Kentucky Literature class. Gurney Norman and I share the same birthday, we are both cusp babies, July 22nd, so I already felt a connection to him. (I rarely come across anyone who shares my birthday!). So, between our sharing the same birthday and the same home state, I decided I must give some time to ol' Gurney Norman. Crystal Wilkinson, one of my favorite authors, also said earlier this semester in one of my classes that Norman was a huge influence for her, he was actually one of her teachers, and that intrigued me as well.

    So, some of you might remember the Last Whole Earth Catalog. Stewart Brand was in charge of that catalog, and apparently he went from commune to commune selling the catalog and supplies (this is all before my time, so those of you who may have actually lived it, please chime in and let us know!). Gurney Norman wrote Divine Right's Trip in installments for the catalog.

    It is a story of the counterculture. Except it's a little backwards. Rather than a hippy going to California to live the new lifestyle, he is returning home. The story is his journey from California back to Kentucky and all the interesting situations that happen along the way.

    Many of the sections in the beginning of the book are filled with wonderful language. Very poetic. Some of Norman's rythym's are just amazing. He crafts the words carefully to create absolutely beautiful passages. I didn't get that same feeling later in the book, and I guess that comes from the fact that it was written in installments.

    One thing that I liked about this book was that Norman really showed his love for Kentucky. So many people have this negative stereotype in their head about what a hillbilly is. Divine Right returns to Kentucky to take care of his dying uncle. From the few characters the reader is introduced to that are from the homeland, Norman really did a wonderful job of conveying some of the culture found in our hills. One thing that surprised me was his descriptions of strip mining and mountain top removal. Just this April many of Norman's friends and fellow Appalachian authors began protesting mountain top removal, but Norman was doing his part to tell America the truths about the coal industry back in the 70s. He and Wendall Berry have done great service to the area by trying to make the realities of the coal industry known (it's just too bad these authors have been overlooked by many in America, so their efforts to show the coal industry for what it is has gone unheard). So, some of the descriptions of the wasteland that our mountains were becoming in the 70s really meant a lot to me, it showed me that someone was at least putting forth some effort to make the public aware of what is going on in our foothills.

    In the end, all the hippy characters come together with the hillbillies, and well, the cultures kinda collide for a day or so. I think this was also really beautiful because it shows that hillbillies aren't so different from other people in America. D.R.'s uncle took care of himself and tried to take care of the land his family was from. He grew he own food and farmed his own land. And the music moves the hillbillies as much as the hippies. The Kentucky folk take D.R. and his friends in as if they had been apart of the scene the entire time. One big family.

    Another nice surprise was the mentioning of Big Hill. I live only a few miles away from Big Hill. It's no surprise that Berea catches the fancy of authors that pass through here, after all it is the arts and crafts capital of KY, and the liberal arts college is one of the best in the nation. But, Big Hill is a little different. In the story, D.R. talks about Daniel Boone and Big Hill, how the legend is that Boone looked at the Cumberland Plateau for the first time from Big Hill before his first expedition. It made me think about an elderly woman in one of my classes who made the comment this year "I'll always walk lopsided, one of my feet will always tread high on the foothills of Appalachia just on the other side of Big Hill, while the other foot treads on the bluegrass plains." D.R. really reflects that ideology that is so common of my homeland. The people of the foothills have a unique culture that not too many folks know about, so it was refreshing to see that culture presented in a way that didn't make the Kentucky folk out to be ignorant, toothless, barefoot buffoons.

    I really enjoyed this book, and I highly recommend it. Especially for those of you interested in counterculture ;)
     
  2. gurney

    gurney Member

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    hey gurney is my name
     
  3. cerridwen

    cerridwen in stitches

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    I have read that book, believe it or not, it's quite an interesting read.
     
  4. raven23

    raven23 Member

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    Wow, I loved the Whole Earth Catalogs (I'm a big appropriate tech. kinda guy) but I dont remember that. It sounds good.
     
  5. m6m

    m6m Member

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    I remember it!


    It's been a long time, but I remember thumbing through the Whole Earth Catalog just to piece together the bits of the on going adventure.

    I especially remember that one scene from a hunter's point of view where he sees two hippies having sex in the woods, and begins to debate with himself whether he should shoot them or not.

    Thanks for reminding me about those little margin-stories in the Whole Earth Catalog.
     

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