A Summons to Memphis

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Overview

Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
"American readers demand novels, and now Peter Taylor has given them one; to say that it is every bit as good as the best of his short stories is the highest compliment it can be paid."
THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
When Phillip Carver receives, on a lonely Sunday evening, two successive telephone calls from his sisters, begging him to leave his home in Manhattan...
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Overview

Winner of the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
"American readers demand novels, and now Peter Taylor has given them one; to say that it is every bit as good as the best of his short stories is the highest compliment it can be paid."
THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD
When Phillip Carver receives, on a lonely Sunday evening, two successive telephone calls from his sisters, begging him to leave his home in Manhattan and return immediately to Memphis, he is slow to agree. His sisters, middle-aged and unmarried, want his help in averting the remarriage of their father, an elderly widower. And although Phillip wants no part in such manipulations, he finds himself unable to refuse to make the trip South...and into his own past.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1986, A Summons to Memphis is "a delicious novel . . . funny, touching."--Newsweek. After two phone calls from his sisters, Philip Carver reluctantly leaves his Manhattan home and returns to Memphis . . . and into his own past as well.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It seems amazing that only now has Taylorwell advanced in a life that seems as measured as his lucid prosedelivered himself of a second novel. It has been as well worth waiting for as a treasure uncovered after years of searching. As in his celebrated short stories, Taylor here offers a reconstruction of an earlier era in a distinctively Southern settinga closely knit society permeated by inflexible codes of conduct whose consequences reach through the generations. This is the story of the Carver family, formerly of Nashville, whose move to Memphis was the result of the father's betrayal by his best friend and major legal client. Phillip Carver, the narrator, tells of the events that followed from that move, in which his autocratic father destroyed the lives of his wife and all four of his children. The circumstances are affected by the particular milieu of Memphis, just a few hundred miles away from Nashville, but having its own accents of speech, social hierarchy, customs and patterns of behavioreven a certain style of dressing. Taylor conveys these characteristics in the same way that he evokes personality: with an accretion of detail built on sensitive and sympathetic observation. As the novel unfolds, what seems a simple story becomes weighted with psychological nuances, revealed as layer after layer of family secrets is stripped away. In a beautifully constructed symmetry, events come full circle; the revelation of paternal hubris also unmasks treachery and festering resentment and fully illuminates the tragedy of hopes dashed and young lives wasted. Through a final, wrenching irony, Phillip eventually comes to understand the wellsprings of his father's character, and he is able to achieve empathy and forgiveness. Master raconteur Taylor casts implicationsfar wider than his novel's settingabout the insidious undercurrents in family relationships. This is a wise book, and despite its deliberate understatement, a profoundly affecting one. (October 6)
From the Publisher
"We finish the novel feeling we've not only come to know his characters, but also come to share their inner truths." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"A beautiful ironic novel. Peter Taylor's fiction is full of rewards." --The New York Times Book Review

"A Summons to Memphis is like a leisurely port wine sipped slowly and with pleasure beneath a blackjack oak." --The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Something of a miracle.... [A Summons to Memphis] is a work that manages to summarize and embody its author's entire career." --The Washington Post Book World

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345346605
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/12/1987
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 234
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.86 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Taylor was born in Tennessee in 1917. He was the author of seven books of stories, including The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor, A Long Fourth, In the Miro District and Other Stories and The Old Forest and Other Stories (which won the Pen/Faulkner Award for fiction in 1985); three novels including A Summons to Memphis (which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1987); and three books of plays. Mr. Taylor taught at Harvard University, the University of North Carolina, and Kenyon College, from which he graduated in 1940. Before his death in 1994, he was Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 30, 2009

    A tidy, uninteresting read

    I have had this book on my shelf since the late 90s. I started the book on multiple occassions only to get side-tracked or to lose interest. A native Memphian, I was always intrigued by this set up of opposites: Memphis and Nashville. I always liked to think Memphis far superior...so I was disappointed to find that the place, as frequently as it was referred to, was not really all that important to the story, other than the author's transplantation there becomes his chief, life-long obstacle. Anyway, spoiler alert...he lives in NY, stays in NY and imagines himself eventally dissolving there. I guess the story is realistic, but in a very banal, unimaginative way that doesn't really make it worth being on the other end as reader. I found A Summons to Memphis redundant so much so that you expect when approaching the climax of the book for there to be a stark revelation. Indeed there was not.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2005

    not what i expected

    Book was more of an inspection of the mores of a controlling father and his times and culture and the attempts at intervention by his two daughters. My only reason for giving it only 4 stars is because it took 50-60 pages to 'get into it'.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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