I don’t claim to be a historian, or even a particularly huge fan of learning about history. I’ve known this since high school, when I distinctly remember finding it difficult to remember name, dates, and specific details about historical events. But I can appreciate those who love it and I can understand the significance of the past. From the handful of minutes I spent in front of Lydia Peelle last night, I gathered that she is one of those people.
A little background on Lydia Peelle’s novel, The Midnight Cool. It’s set in early 1900s Tennessee, around the time of WWI. At this point in history, mules were a huge part of everyday life, especially in Tennessee, and Peelle focuses on this throughout the book, and talked about them during her Carmichael’s reading. She started out with a brief slideshow of mules – on farms, in the war – and then read from the beginning of The Midnight Cool, where we are introduced to Charles and the novel’s setting. To help give us more of a feel for the era, we listened to “When I Gets Out In No Man’s Land,” a song by Arthur Collins recorded on an Edison Blue Amberol – think REAL old school record – and played on a phonograph. I’m talking nearly 100 years old and the quality of the sound was pretty unbelievable. The audience was then in for another special treat, a guitjo performance by Ketch Secor, Peelle’s husband who also happens to be in Old Crow Medicine Show. We heard a compilation of songs from the time period, again focusing on mules and the war.
I’ve got to say, you’ve piqued my interest, Ms. Peelle. If you’re interested in The Midnight Cool, you can read more about it and buy it here!