Tar Heels: A Portrait of North Carolina

By Jonathan DanielsDODD, MEAD
‘A MAN’S own State is not any one land he can have a picture of in his head to bring out like a photograph of a camping trip. At the very least it’s an album of emotions in time.’ Thus Mr. Daniels, near the beginning of a descriptive book that, by what seems the pertinent test, must be among the most successful ever written. The test referred to is simply the degree to which it makes the outsider feel that he has long lived in a region he may never have seen, or makes him feel that not having lived in it is his misfortune. Mr. Daniels accomplishes his result chiefly by the neatest possible use of the method of describing through narrative; he converts his ‘album of emotions in time’ into illuminating anecdote. For instance, he outlines the colonial beginnings of North Carolina by reporting in some detail his own visit to Roanoke Island to see Paul Green’s dramatic pageant of Virginia Dare and the Lost Colony. So he conveys the peculiarities of regions, communities, classes, the differentiating aspects of the state’s politics, journalism, education, cookery, the facts of racial relations, crime, public health, agriculture, industry, the color of personalities covering as wide a range as that from James Buchanan Duke to Thomas Wolfe. And always he remembers the little everyday things that sum up to local pride, the sense of identity, the sense of home. For ‘littleness is life. . . . I hope I am not irreverent, but I prefer a view where I can look at a mountainside across a creek where a washline hangs by a cabin — or a hill scene in the Piedmont where blue eyes watch machines — even the flat east where black men follow mules down the dark furrow which carries the soil off to sea while it collects also the cash the men carry to town.’
W. F.