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518Southern Cultures attitudes toward Gullah people and serpent handlers. While he admired Gullah culture as "rhythmic, graceful, sinuous," he viewed serpent handling as desperate religion, a response to severe poverty, a faith that allows participants "a brief deluded escape, for which they're willing to risk their lives." Reconsidering his value judgments, Dunlap concluded that "southern whites have always been the odd man out," their culture devalued and misunderstood. These final two articles, Birckhead's convincing indictment and Dunlap's sincere apology, suggest questions. How should outsiders respond to the cultures of the South? Should anthropologists celebrate, condemn, photograph, or report? Is objective anthropological research possible when one is examining popular culture? Are poststructuralist approaches accurate or applicable? There are no easy resolutions to the complex research questions posed by the mythic South. But this volume indicates the exciting possibilities that exist when academics cross disciplinary boundaries to examine the construction of myths. This strategy, which scholars in American studies have been pursuing since the 1950s, has finally enlightened the field of anthropology. The Fable of the Southern Writer. By Lewis P. Simpson. Louisiana State University Press, 1994. 249 pp. Cloth, $24.95. Reviewed by Michael Kreyling, professor ofEnglish at Vanderbilt University, where he teaches southern literature and American literature. Once upon a time there was "The South," and it was both historical and ideological. "Of the Mississippi the bank sinister ; of the Ohio the bank sinister" one of the poetwizards of the South wrote, thus placing it simultaneously on the maps of history and of Mind. Into this magic realm came a young "clerk," Lewis P. Simpson , and it was his vocation to explore the South-as-Mind. He suspected that the South was actually an outpost of a larger Kingdom of Mind, America, which in turn was also an outpost of a larger entity, Reprinted with the permission of Louisiana State University Press. Reviews519 the West. This was a riddling view, but Simpson was and is an aficionado of riddles and puzzles with interlocking parts. He was at home in Mind, knew its language and manners. For more than four decades he explored and mapped Mind and the South, rather than Mind of the South, which was another explorer's motto. Nuance was one of Simpson's most telling instruments, and he also had the special talismanic idea of a senior wizard named Eric Voegelin to help him with the larger picture. Simpson then picked up morsels of nuance in the territory of Mind-and-South, and he dropped some on his trail for us to follow. We have learned from Lewis Simpson, as from no other, to see the South as Mind, an act of thought. The Fable of the Southern Writer, eleven interlocking essays gathered from the trail of the last fifteen years, seems to be Simpson's most revealing book of more than a dozen published under his name. Do not be lulled by his deceptive prefatory statement that "historians and critics simply talk about poets and novelists": there is nothing "simple" about the way these essays are crafted and arranged. Simpson not only reprises some of his more stunning findings (and his method of exploration), but FaWe marks a deft redirection of his work and confronts, as if yet in the middle distance and muffled, another country where the maps of the past might not work as reliable guides. The essays collected in The Fable of the Southern Writer are knitted together by the yarn of autobiography. Indeed, the final essay is Simpson's own deceptively unassuming "yarn," an autobiography of growing up in East Texas, with flashbacks to the frontier of his ancestors and ending with his departure for the University of Texas. The thread of autobiography leads to another departure for Simpson. In his earlier work Allen Tate had been, among the original guides to South, his intellectual focus. The second essay in Fable, however , contains a kind of hail and farewell: "I shall leave further discussion of Jefferson to later, and turn, as I do elsewhere in the present studies, to Allen Tate, who as one explores the cultural history of the South, emerges more and more as a central figure...


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