Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThis vivid portrait of the author of the influential The Mind of the South reveals both the making of a historian and the self-destruction of an artist. Recreating Cash's (1900-1941) coming-of-age in the Jim Crow South, Clayton ( Forgotten Prophet: The Life of Randolph Bourne ) suggests the influences that fed Cash's compulsion to write about his heritage and helped to develop his central theses, such as his belief that ``southern whites . . . sprang from a common, humble source.'' Cash as a troubled free spirit is also brought to life, characterized here as a brilliant but despondent former Menckenite who drank too much, had difficulty holding a job, drove his publisher to distraction with missed deadlines, and finally hanged himself. A concluding chapter, `` The Mind of the South in History,'' provides useful textual analysis and an overview of the ``staying power'' of Cash's magnum opus. Yet it is the image of Cash himself--a balding, anxious man who viewed his book as ``written in blood''--that best spells out the force of this study of its author and of the American South. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Clayton's probing biography of Cash brings us one step closer to understanding this troubled southern writer and his magnum opus.
Library Journal - Library JournalClayton plumbs the mind and milieu of the man who authored The Mind of the South , a classic of historical literature never out of print since Knopf published it in 1941. Probing the book's autobiographical foundations, Clayton traces the steps of the South Carolinian born in 1900 and christened Joseph Wilbur Cash. From his reversal of names to Wilbur Joseph, through his college days at Wake Forest and his unhappy stint teaching English, to his years as a newspaperman, Cash comes to life in Clayton's prose as a sensitive and sympathetic Southern son seeking to explain himself and his native region. Clayton shows that the sense of sorrow and profound tragedy stalking Cash's South also haunted him to the day his wife found him hanged in their Mexico City apartment. Clayton's insights into the man and his time and place make this book essential for collections on the South.--Thomas J. Davis, Univ. at Buffalo, N.Y.
BooknewsPublication of this biography of the author of The mind of the South coincides with the 50th anniversary of the publication of that work. Clayton committed suicide at age 41, a year after completing what has remained a classic and indispensable study of the region. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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