By: John H. Blitz
Reviewed by: Chris Bouier
University of Alabama Press, 2008
With Moundville John Blitz presents readers a characterization of a place that by all rights and accounts is as much a national monument as the colossal undertaking of Mount Rushmore and also as invaluable an international heirloom of the human family as the pyramids on the Giza plateau. He develops this profile of the park in three distinct segments: 1) an examination of its modern history; 2) an explication of the scientific methodologies and efforts that have shed so much light on its pre-history; 3) the humanization of this pre-historic data in story form. Finally, Blitz caps this biography of the monument with a brief chapter consisting of the most relevant data of all: an outline and description of what potential visitors should seek and expect when planning their next trip to this remarkable site.
This last chapter might just be the most fittingly purposeful of them all. For in the final analysis Moundville is a primer designed and geared towards piquing the interest of the prospective reader who may have never been or might have never even heard of this important landmark, not to mention renewing the fascination of those readers who might not have visited in a while. I must admit that I fall into the first category, and this book has not only kindled my own desire to visit but has also reminded me of a youthful quasi-folly of once choosing to take a fieldtrip to the “uber-cool” Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville over a “boring old heap of dirt.” If my testimony is of any consequence, Blitz has accomplished his primary goal. At the time of this writing, I am attempting to decide between visiting this October to participate in the four-day Moundville Native American Festival and postponing my trip, holding out for another of the many events that the park schedules throughout the year.
Overall, Blitz has crafted an exceptional work of non-fiction. He strikes a good balance between the technical/scientific aspects of his subject matter while retaining the accessibility so vital towards achieving his main goal of appealing to wide, general readership. His historiographic style conforms to normal academic standards of objectivity and validity while at the same time his enthusiasm for and veneration of his subject comes through clearly in his voice. And if this book is representative of the level of quality in the rest of the University of Alabama’s Alabama: The Forge of History series, then, personally, I look forward to reading more of their illustrated guides. Dec 2008
Chris Bouier is a theater technician, musician, and writer in the Birmingham area.