Rivers have always been one of the great metaphors for time, and since the earliest days of North America’s exploration and exploitation, the Mississippi has served as perhaps the most reliable American clock and barometer for tracking where we are as a country and where we’ve been. For centuries the river has also been an irresistible magnet for all manner of desperados and dreamers, and has inspired generations of writers, artists, and musicians.
In 2017, Patrick O’Dell, Heath Kirchart, Ky Tait, and June, traveled from California to Hannibal, Missouri (Mark Twain’s hometown), and embarked on a 34-day, 1,057-mile canoe trek to Morgan City, Louisiana.
Big River is a visual diary of that odyssey, equal parts road novel (the Mississippi is, after all, the original Highway 61) and buddy movie.
Through his bleary yet clear-eyed and tender portrait of both the river and America, O’Dell makes his own contribution to the mythology (and the demythologization) of the Mississippi.