I grew up in a tiny town in Vermont. Tiny in terms of population, not size—there were huge sprawling farms and wooded areas, but almost no people. More cows than people, which is standard for a lot of small towns in Vermont. So, clearly, not...

In the heart of a second-growth piney-woods jungle of southern Alabama, a region sparsely settled by backwoods blacks and Cajuns—that queer, half-wild people descended from Acadian exiles of the middle eighteenth century—stands a strange, enormous ruin....

I can still hear them. In the stillness of the night as I wait for the grasp of sleep to take me, the sighs start flooding in from all directions. At first, they’re so low that I think I must be imagining them, but gradually,...