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Chaucer of the Ozarks

Image Courtesy of Tyson Foods

Explore the life and nonfiction of Donald Harington, known as "the Chaucer of the Ozarks" for his artistic and literary portrayal of the traditions and culture of the tri-state region of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.

On this episode of Arts & Letters, we’ll be talking with editor Brian Walter about the collected non-fiction of novelist Donald Harington.

Walter's  book The Guestroom Novelist: A Donald Harington Miscellany published by the University of Arkansas Press collects Harington's essays, speeches, interviews and reviews and situates them in relation to his novels--many of them set in Stay More, a fictional town in the Ozarks.

Harington in Drakes Creek, Arkansas.

The collected nonfiction positions the fabric of Harington's life against the push and pull of his influences and his obsessions.

The episode also features recorded excerpts of Harington, who rarely gave extemporaneous interviews, speaking about his life and his art.

During his lifetime, Harington (1935-2009), deaf from childhood meningitis from the age of 12, was a professor of Art History at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and published 15 novels beginning with The Cherry Pit (1965) and ending with Enduring (2009).

"Harington was always the novelist, always spinning yarns, rigging up plotlines to hook, entrance, and delight the Gentle Reader whom he loved so dearly (sometimes deperately) through the medium of his written words. Harington was an incorrigible storyteller, a loving co-conspirator with anyone who would set foot into his imaginary realms, to our perpetual enrichment as readers," writes Walter.

Harington & Walters
Credit Brian Walters personal photo collection
Harington and Walter, taken during Walter's early years as an assistant professor at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, AR

Brian Walter is Professor of English and Director of Convocations at St. Louis College of Pharmacy.

In addition to his recent book, the University of Arkansas Press also distributes his feature documentaries, Stay More: The World of Donald Harington and Farther Along: The World of Donald Harington, Pt. 2.

Walter's essays, articles, reviews, and fiction have appeared in a variety of literary and film studies journals; he also appeared as an 'old coot' with a magic camera in Harington's final novel, Enduring.

A special thanks to singers and songwriters Dawson Hollow and The Lark and the Loon. A special thanks to Joseph Fuller, multi-instrumentalist, who created the theme song and score for this episode. Additional thanks to Brian Walter for sharing his personal recordings of Harington with us.

Professor Brian Walter

Joseph Fuller
Jeff Rolfzen and Rocky Steen-Rolfzen of The Lark and the Loon

Dawson Hollow

Listen to the original song "Stay More" by Joseph Fuller composed for this episode
Listen to the song "Shine What You Got" by the Lark and the Loon
Listen to the song "Hills & Roads" by Dawson Hollow

Thank you to Stickyz Rock “N" Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas. Thank you to the Sheraton Four Pointsby Marriott Little Rock Midtown for providing accommodations for our singers, songwriters, and guests. 

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Contact Arts & Letters Radio at artsletters@kuar.org or via phone at 501-569-8485.  Our mailing address is:  Arts & Letters Radio |  KUAR 89.1  | 5820 Asher Avenue, Suite 400  | Little Rock, AR   72204.

Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick Producer & Story Editor: Mary Ellen Kubit Sound Mastering: Simon Sound Services Intern: Brian Williams

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