All 19 contributors to this mixed collection are associated with the Fellowship of Southern Writers, based in Chattanooga and organized in 1989 under the aegis of the late esteemed critic Cleanth Brooks for the purpose of encouraging and honoring excellence in Southern letters. Many of the writers are household names where Southern literature is discussed. However, while several of the stories are well crafted and touching, an equal number do not represent these authors at their best, despite their having been chosen by the authors themselves. "Between the Lines," by the irrepressible Lee Smith, is from her long-ago collection Cakewalk. The story is a classic, telling of an optimistic rural woman who puts a positive spin on the most life-shattering events as she composes a fortnightly column for a Greenville, S.C., newspaper. Of equal excellence is Elizabeth Spencer's "Everlasting Light," a short, powerful tale of a father's overwhelming love for his daughter. Michael Knight, a young writer who burst onto the scene just a few years ago, delivers a memorable narrative in "For Alice to the Fourth Floor," concerning a woman who returns from a first date to find herself locked out of her apartment on a freezing December night, and the pains her new friend takes to help her. In "Feeling Good, Feeling Fine," George Garrett captures a magic and tragic baseball moment from a boy's childhood. Stories by Allan Gurganus, Barry Hannah, Shelby Foote, Doris Betts, William Henry Lewis and Jill McCorkle are less engaging, some too long and rambling, some difficult to fully understand. This is a smorgasbord of literary offerings, several still tasty, others having lost their freshness. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
According to George Garrett's introduction, the Fellowship of Southern Writers was organized in the 1980s by the late Cleanth Brooks to encourage and recognize Southern writing. This wildly varied compilation of short stories contains works (some quite short) by a long list of luminaries: an oddity, "The Naked Lady," by Madison Smartt Bell, some historical fiction by Shelby Foote and Allan Gurganus, and brief gems by Doris Betts and Fred Chappell. Some of the best pieces are by less familiar names: in searing and heartfelt prose, Lewis Nordan's "Tombstone" describes a man's coming to terms with his teenaged son's suicide many years earlier; every word is carefully chosen. Selections by Jill McCorkle, Lee Smith, and William Hoffman are also included in this interesting proof of the vitality of Southern fiction. Like any regional collection, however, it has a prevailing tone but no theme. For regional libraries.--Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A pricey pleasure for readers of southern fiction: 19 stories from the Fellowship of Southern Writers showcasing a variety of talents and styles that rarely fail to engage the reader's appetite for rich tales well-told. The expected concerns are all on display here: race relations, regional history, death, and that sturdy southern interest, women's lot (five of the contributors are female). Shelby Foote, a peerless historian of the Civil War, provides a wonderful 18th-century tale, "The Sacred Mound," about Native American struggle and spirituality. In "Tombstone," Lewis Nordon sketches a transplanted southerner's curious obsession with a native tombstone. Jill McCorkle's "Life Prerecorded" delivers a splendid, journal-style account of a woman's pregnancy and subsequent motherhood. And in one of the strongest selections, Allan Gurganus offers a pair of letters informing a mother of her son's death in the Civil War-one by the son himself. Throughout, there is very little distracting irony, and authorial mannerisms are rarely intrusive; if it is too much to say these are earnest stories, they are for sure earnestly written, with a refreshing purposefulness about them. Even as Madison Smartt Bell starts the collection off in familiar territory-a man awakens hung over in his seedy apartment to shoot at a bedside rat-such moments, in their fluent, easy telling, hardly seem gimmicky. A strong collection from a gathering of accomplished writers who have more than their style to show.