Big Empty

Randolph, Ladette and Nina Shevchuk-Murray. The Big Empty: Contemporary Nebraska Nonfiction Writers. University of Nebraska Press, 2007

Reason read: Nebraska became the 37th state in March of 1867.

Big Empty is comprised of 27 essays and excepts covering a variety of subjects but all centered around the geography of Nebraska. Ted Kooser will often quote the Bohemians and the proverbs while telling you about the land. Bob Ross will tell you how to mend fences to keep the cattle in. William Kloefkorn will have you smiling as he remembers an ill-fated trip down the river with a group of friends. Kenneth Lincoln will have you weepy-eyed as he remembers his coming of age. You get the point, this is Nebraska from every angle. Some of the stories will bring tears to your eyes. Some will make you laugh out loud. But most will educate you to the Nebraskan landscape.

My big takeaway from reading Big Empty: Nebraska means flat water. Just kidding. Nebraska has gone from a place I knew absolutely nothing about to something of intrigue. I am more than a little curious about the state now.

Confessional: I used to say I didn’t know anyone from Nebraska until someone told me my deceased uncle was from Nebraska. Then I discovered he was actually from Arkansas. So I still don’t know anyone from Nebraska.

Line I liked from the preface: “Instead of sleeping away the drive through, they are awake and taking notes” (p xi).
Other lines to mention, “My argument is this: if it floats and gets you there, it is a boat” (“This Death By Drowning” by William Kloefkorn, p 73), and “…and when the auctioneer hammered “Sold!” Vic had bought that mule for a price that even brought a smile to the mule’s face” (“Uncle Vic’s Mule” by Roger Welsch, p 84), and “Grandpa’s plate was where the talk stopped and the patriarchal authority started” (“Excerpts from Prairie Homeboys” by Kenneth Lincoln, p 151). There were many, many other lines I could quote but I’ll just let you read the book. You should.

Author Editor fact: Ladette Randolph is also a writer. She published Leaving the Pink House in 2014 (University of Iowa Press).
Nina Shevchuk-Murray was born in the Ukraine.

Book trivia: I know this is a collection of essays but I would have loved a few photographs as well.

Nancy said: Big Empty “offers a diverse look at people’s lives in the state at various times and under various conditions” (p 149).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go from the chapter called “Nebraska: The Big Empty” (p 149). Gee, I wonder where she got that title from?

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