George Washington had a splendid farm, Jefferson and other American notables had farms - fields of cotton and tobacco, dozens or hundreds of slaves . . . but who did they inherit this wealth from? Who were their fathers and grandfathers? Who cleared these fields and planted the sotweed, making the soil say, ‘tobacco’, rather than elm and hickory? What became of the red man who had burned the underbrush for thousands of years, maintaining the splendid hardwood forests of Eastern North America, drinking from the clear streams that criss-crossed Manahatta?
I lived in Maryland for several years; on sunny weekends wandering over hill and dale, stepping into abandoned slave cabins where now only the cows came to rest in the shade. There, on a dusty shelf, I could still find a lead bookend embossed with a Greek Daphne or her sister playing the lyre. Did the Africans who lived here have books? Did they know whose image was on the bookend?
The Sotweed Factor by John Barth is a massive 1000 page spoof on the historical novel, or the Tom Jones genre - the colonies in the late 1600’s. Read editorial and customer reviews at: