William Least Heat-Moon

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William Least Heat-Moon, best-selling author and noted lecturer, was born on August 27, 1939, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Ralph G. Trogdon and Maurine Davis Trogdon. His surname, Trogdon, comes from Irish and English ancestors. His pen name, Least Heat-Moon, comes from an Osage Indian ancestor who was born in July—the Moon of Heat. His father is known as Heat-Moon. His older brother is called Little Heat-Moon. Because William is the youngest and last, he took the name Least Heat-Moon. Heat-Moon credits his Osage ancestry as being the influential force in inspiring and shaping his works.

Heat-Moon received his degrees from the University of Missouri at Columbia: a B.A. in literature in 1961, an M.A. in literature in 1962, and a Ph.D. in literature in 1973. He also earned a B.A. in photojournalism in 1978. He taught literature at Stephen’s College in Columbia, Missouri, from 1965 to 1978. Heat-Moon was also a lecturer at the University of Missouri School of Journalism from 1985 to 1987. Since the late 1980’s, his main occupation has been that of writer and lecturer.

Although Heat-Moon contributes articles to a variety of prestigious magazines, such as Esquire, Time, and The Atlantic Monthly, he is best known for his nonfiction bestsellers, Blue Highways (1983) and PrairyErth (1991).

Blue Highways, his first book, is the culmination of a 13,000-mile automobile trek along the backroads of thirty-eight states. Acclaimed by critics nationwide as the greatest travel memoir since John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, Blue Highways became an immediate success. In 1983, The New York Times named it a notable book, and Time listed it as one of the five best nonfiction books of the year. In 1984, it received both the Christopher Award and the Books-Across-the-Sea Award for literary excellence.

Hailed with the same critical acclaim as Blue Highways, PrairyErth, an old geologic term for the soils of the central grasslands, was published in 1991. Heat-Moon’s exploration of 774 square miles of the tall grass prairies and grasslands of Chase County, Kansas, culminated in a meticulous, poetic narrative that celebrates the beauty and richness of the ordinary in America’s heartland. The book combines natural history, social history, and ecology with life-affirming vignettes of common people who live in the heart of the Kansas Flint Hills. Valuable information is provided on the Kaw (Kansa) tribe and numerous plants Native Americans once used for food.

Bibliography

Baker, Samuel. “William Least Heat-Moon: Navigating America.” Publishers Weekly 246, no. 38 (September 20, 1999): 55-56. A profile of the author, whom Baker calls “cartographically-obsessed.”

Heat-Moon, William Least. Literary Cavalcade 37 (1984). A two-part interview that provides a look at Heat-Moon’s writing philosophy in general and his reflections on how he came to take the journey which produced Blue Highways.

Newquist, David L. “The Violation of Hospitality and the Demoralization of the Frontier.” Midwestern Miscellany 21 (1993). Compares Blue Highways with John G. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks (1932).

Bibliography

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Baker, Samuel. “William Least Heat-Moon: Navigating America.” Publishers Weekly 246, no. 38 (September 20, 1999): 55-56. A profile of the author, whom Baker calls “cartographically-obsessed.”

Heat-Moon, William Least. Literary Cavalcade 37 (1984). A two-part interview that provides a look at Heat-Moon’s writing philosophy in general and his reflections on how he came to take the journey which produced Blue Highways.

Newquist, David L. “The Violation of Hospitality and the Demoralization of the Frontier.” Midwestern Miscellany 21 (1993). Compares Blue Highways with John G. Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks (1932).

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