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The correspondence between Andrew Lytle and Allen Tate reflects an important friendship, literary and personal. This statement may seem obvious, but by reading these letters it is clear that Tate and Lytle were "brothers" in ways that went beyond interests in art, history, and the culture of the South. Begun in 1927 after John Crowe Ransom's suggestion that the authors meet, these letters chronicle the years from 1927 up to 1968 when Tate and Lytle were living near one another at Sewanee and Monteagle, Tennessee, and thus could meet frequently. This documentation of a long friendship provides many insights into questions about their mutual concerns, including their families.
One of the valuable contributions this correspondence makes is found in the many passages in which the writers criticize each other's work. References to manuscripts in progress, discussions of works planned and modified, and specific suggestions and admonitions are included throughout the exchange. An excellent sustained example is the correspondence about The Velvet Horn, which was so many years in the making. Tate and Lytle developed an ardor in their pursuit of art. The preservation and editing of these letters will assist others to appreciate the complexity of what they sought. Perseverance in the light of difficulty, mutual encouragement (in personal matters and in matters of art), love of shared acquaintances—such concerns are woven throughout the letters.
This correspondence is carefully edited and handsomely printed. Sometimes there are almost too many footnotes, but future generations will appreciate the editorial care. Valuable to scholars for many reasons, including personal revelations, the book provides insights into literary plans and accomplishments and the larger issues of world view, especially with regard to questions about Agrarianism—something that in the 1930s must have seemed almost like a dream to some, but that was very much a part of what fueled both these careers and a larger debate (ultimately lost) about the direction of American society as a whole. Today such issues seem rather remote, yet they are extremely germane to the present moment and not because of ideological questions but because Lytle and Tate were artists in contact with many other like-minded artists.
The value of the extended Lytle-Tate correspondence is indirectly clarified when examined with the study of Southern culture provided by Piacentino's examination of T. S. Stribling's fiction. Stribling, as a forerunner of later writers in the Southern Renaissance, is an artist apparently concerned first with an exaggerated version of "critical realism" and second with "art." More influenced by Sinclair Lewis than by any desire to reflect a broad picture of southern culture, Stribling nevertheless exposed many of the flaws of small-town southern life. To read these two books simultaneously is, therefore, to be reminded of the complexity [End Page 631] of that culture. Stribling's fiction has roots in the local color movement. The "revolt from the village" and Stribling's realization that he could likely build on the successes of a writer such as Lewis whose Main Street (1920) had immense commercial success account for his method. Stribling's fiction, quite popular for a brief period in the 1920s and 1930s and, according to Piacentino, disdained by the Agrarians because of its simplicity, does share some characteristics with the program sponsored by those who drew inspiration from Agrarian associations in Nashville. Concerns about a South so rapidly changing are central to both. Piacentino's careful study of Stribling's major fiction is a useful reminder that the Southern Renaissance was a complex event.
Published by the University Press of America, this book is produced in a typeface that...