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Reviews Our regular review section features some of the best new books, films, and sound recordings in southern studies. From time to time you'll also find reviews of important new museum exhibitions and public-history sites, and retrospectives on classic works that continue to shape our understanding of the region and its people. Our aim is to explore the rich diversity of southern life and the methods and approaches of those who study it. Please write us to share your suggestions or to add your name to our reviewer file. The Neugents: "Close to Home." By David M. Spear. Winston-Salem, North Carolina: The Jargon Society, 1993. n.p. Cloth, $40.00. Reviewed by Pamela Grundy, a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of You Always Think of Home: A Portrait of Clay County, Alabama and of The Most Democratic Sport: Basketball and Culture in the Central Piedmont, 1893-1994. Eighty-year-old Mamie Neugent leans over her kitchen table, plunging her head of long white hair into a metal bowl of water at the newspaper-covered edge. On the bowl's rim, above the dampened print, she rests fingers swollen wide from age and use, their shape betraying the same kind of long working life as the wrinkled dress that falls about her shoulders. Around her the camera has fixed details of a southern rural home: an ancient door; a stained refrigerator; an unused radio, coiled electric cord; crackers; Quaker Oats; a smooth plastic bottle of White Rain Shampoo. To one side sits her son Lee, hands on his head, seeming to smile to himself. A few pages later, accounts of several floating conversations depict Mamie and Lee as they pass time by wandering through details of their lives, moving from memories of fires and chickens to discussions of the best way to dress possums, the current state of their tobacco crop, the surprise arrival of a new cat at the back porch. "He come got me one Saturday night," Mamie says in one such interlude, describing her elopement with her now-deceased husband Tracy in the matter-of-fact manner that permeates most of her words. "Yeah, got me. He took me to Greensboro. We got on a train and went to some ole place he knowed about. My daddy when he heard about it he raised hell. He come and got us finally. I ain't sure why, but I always thought it was because they won't nobody home to do the wash. I had stayed home and daddy had got use to me doing the wash." 364Southern Cultures Mamie and Lee Neugent from The Neugents: "Close to Home," published by the Jargon Society. Reprinted with the permission of author and photographer David M. Spear. In The Neugents: "Close to Home," photographer and writer David Spear collects many quiet, meaningful moments from the lives of the dozen or so people who center their activities on a small tobacco farm in North Carolina's hilly Rockingham County. A county native and the family's closest neighbor, Spear worked with the Neugents from 1987 to 1993. Sixty-seven black-and-white photographs and a grouping of suggestive texts capture Mamie, her sons Lee, Bill, Troy, and Coon, grandchildren Ricky, Turtle, Frog, and Brenda, and a handful of others as they wash children, string tobacco, work on family cars and conduct the kind of land-bound life that has fascinated practitioners of the photographic arts almost since the medium was invented. Few spots in the world can boast of textures so seductive as the remote corners of the rural South—the softness of a shirt collar washed past threadbare; the gritty patterns worked by the progress of rust along the back of an outdoor metal seat; the striking contrast between the unmarred smoothness of a few-months-old baby, and the scars and wrinkles accumulated by a woman who makes no attempt to hide her eight decades of age. But even more compelling for the writers and photographers who have made this region one of the most documented in the nation has been the way of living...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 363-366
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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