Elizabeth Spencer is the author of several justly praised short story collections and novels, among them The Light in the Piazza, which was made into a motion picture. Beginning with her youth in Mississippi and her sheltered upbringing among family and friends, she tells not only her own story but that of a place and time that have since disappeared. She writes also of her friendships with Eudora Welty, Robert Penn Warren, and others who have sustained her. Elizabeth Spencer earned a masters degree in literature...
Elizabeth Spencer is the author of several justly praised short story collections and novels, among them The Light in the Piazza, which was made into a motion picture. Beginning with her youth in Mississippi and her sheltered upbringing among family and friends, she tells not only her own story but that of a place and time that have since disappeared. She writes also of her friendships with Eudora Welty, Robert Penn Warren, and others who have sustained her. Elizabeth Spencer earned a masters degree in literature at Vanderbilt University and taught for a time in the South before setting out for New York, where her first novel was published. Having acquired a taste for other places, and feeling increasingly estranged from the South owing to the racial tension there, she traveled extensively, living for some years in Italy and Canada, before returning "home" to North Carolina. Elizabeth Spencer describes her encounters with writers - William Faulkner, Saul Bellow, Alberto Moravia - without hero worship or embellishment; her portraits are respectful, honest, and often witty.
Growing up in a snobbish, straitlaced, Mississippi town in the 1930s, novelist and story writer Spencer, who was born in 1921, rebelled against an old-fashioned Southern way of life that she mockingly calls "as rigidly bounded as a high-security prison." Her fiction, exploring such themes as racial equality, sex, love and expatriates' perilous inner journeys, widened the rift between her and her rigid, wealthy, controlling father. Her mother, a piano teacher, shared his strict Presbyterian outlook. This witty, charming memoir is most involving when Spencer recounts her outwardly idyllic girlhood, her break with her family and her peripatetic adventures. After working briefly as a reporter in Nashville and teaching literature at the University of Mississippi, she won a Guggenheim Fellowship that took her to Italy in 1953, where she met her future husband, an Englishman and a language instructor. They moved to Canada in 1958, but Spencer returned to her Southern roots with their relocation to North Carolina in 1986. She relates her friendships or encounters with the likes of Eudora Welty, Robert Penn Warren, John Cheever, Walker Percy, William Faulkner and others in her spirited tale of her evolution as a writer. Photos. (Feb.)
Novelist and short story writer Spencer grew up surrounded by the rich literary traditions of the Mississippi hill country, came of age during the renaissance of Southern literature as a genre, and attended Vanderbilt University under the tenure of Allen Tate, John Crowe Ransom, Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, and Donald Davidson of the New Criticism movement. After the 1948 publication of her first novel, Fire in the Morning, she left for Europe. For the next several decades, she lived in voluntary exile from her native Southmostly in Italy and, after her marriage, in Canadaand finally returned to her roots to teach creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In this gracefully written, sympathetic, yet honest memoir, written in the languid style of Southern storytelling, Spencer appraises life as she lived it, with all its surprise turns, satisfactions, ambitions, frustrations, and regrets. She is best at capturing the complex nature of the places and people that filled her life and influenced her writing. Recommended for comprehensive literature collections and where Spencer has a following.Denise S. Sticha, Seton Hill Coll. Lib., Greensburg, Pa.
Elizabeth Spencer lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of nine novels, including The Voice at the Back Door, The Salt Line,The Night Travellers, and This Crooked Way, and several short fiction collections, most recently The Southern Woman. Her work has been widely translated and has merited numerous awards. She is a charter member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.