In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

thunder and lighting," Waiters awakens to the realization that he is no longer an observer. He is now a full participant in a beloved community diat pushed "beyond cultural limits to unknown exaltation, hope, mysticism, ecstasy." The tragedy, Hobson argues, is that Waiters, like Boyle and Smith before him, may have expected too much of the movement. It could not wash away all of the sins ofthe Soudi, nor could it heal what Watters saw as the "system-wide sickness" at die "core ofAmerican culture." The redemption forWatters—and for the Soudi, Hobson suggests—was that, for a moment, the Civil Rights movement "produced a shimmering vision of what life between the races might be." No longer could the white South remain blind to the injustices of racism; now it saw. Battlegrounds of Memory By Clay Lewis University of Georgia Press, 1998 225 pp. Cloth $24.95 Slaves in the Family By Edward Ball Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998 504 pp. Cloth, $30.00 Reviewed by Fred Hobson, Lineberger Professor in die Humanities at the University of Nordi Carolina at Chapel Hill and author most recendy oí But Now ISee: The White Southern Racial Conversion Narrative, reviewed above by Steven J. Niven. From the 1940s until the present—and particularly in the past two decades—autobiography and memoir have been, without doubt, among the most popular forms of southern literary expression. Men and women, black and white, privileged and poor, straight and gay, soudierners ofall descriptions have taken to the typewriter and computer and tried to make sense oflives—their own—which are both suigeneris and, at die same time, representative of other lives in particular times and places. Memoir, by its nature, is self-indulgent, even narcissistic, but it is also valuable as social and cultural history. At its best—given a carefully constructed persona, a narrative sense, an awareness of irony and ambiguity—it is also among the most satisfying forms ofliterature. Clay Lewis's Battlegrounds ofMemory and Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family are illustrative of two forms of the genre—Lewis's work being rather more conventional in its portrait of a single life, Ball's being more of a family history, one that 84 southern cultures, Summer2000: Reviews intersects, particularly, with race. Both books—as memoir often does—concern sins of the fadiers, and, in Lewis's case, modiers too. Bodi embody a quest, a search for meaning, and both find a sort ofresolution in the end. Lewis's life, in most respects, seems unremarkable—which is to say, no more remarkable than the individually remarkable lives of millions of other twentiedicentury Americans who strive, hope, succeed, fail, at times experience a flash of transcendence, at other times (most of the time) simply cope, endure, and hang on grimly. Lewis, a fiction writer and sometime academic, is die descendant of families ofno great distinction as the world would see it—his father a product of rural Mississippi and Oklahoma, his motiier ofNorth Carolina poverty. But both parents, wanting a better life, had come to Washington, DC, in the 1920s and 1930s, and his fadier, without the advantage ofhigher education, had risen economically to the middle class as a successful salesman ofx-ray equipment. Growing up in suburbs ofWashington and Baltimore, Clay Lewis was distinctly aware of class—particularly which girls, potential dates, came from families "better" than his. "I wanted to be a 1950sJay Gatsby," he writes, "before I had ever heard ofJay Gatsby." In college he met and married a woman from a far better family, but this marriage, like his second one, did not last. Lewis is always a quester— after a vocation (from business to graduate school to academia), after a woman with whom he'll be happy, after that most elusive ofgoals, "meaning," and, in the latter part ofthe book, after family background, a sense oforigins. Lewis's relationship with his parents—his insecure, alcoholic father and his proud, often rigid modier—is at the center ofthis book, and he views as one of his triumphs a reconciliation with both before their deadis. He grows particularly close to his father, whom he finally must place in a rest home and...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 84-87
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.