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Reviews119 competent family history and a full-fledged social and economic history of the lower Mississippi Valley. For all of her skill at reconstructing her family's life along the lower Gulf Coast, Jackson fails to deliver on the promise "to tell the story of the river itself." While Jackson ably provides secondary treatments of river commerce, rivermen, and the growth of industry along "the American Ruhr," the book lacks the lyricism and sweep of Hodding Carter's Lower Mississippi. There are two shortcomings to the book. First, Jackson often misses the opportunity to draw larger connections to history. For example, readers will wonder how the constant movement of Jackson family members from town to town around the tum of the century related to weaknesses in the farm and low-wage economy of the South at the time. Second, Jackson relies heavily on oral history interviews with family members supplemented by research in secondary sources. At times long portions of the narrative are based solely on the memories of Oliver Jackson, since the family kept few letters and are mentioned in few public records and documentary sources. The book would be more effective if it focused more on the lower Mississippi and its pilots during the middle years of the century as the shipping patterns on the river and the economy of the Gulf South changed tremendously. These memories are compelling but readers would understand their meaning more fully if they were placed alongside the larger story of lower Mississippi river pilots in a time of dramatic social and economic change. Although Where the River Runs Deep falls far short of the promised "detailed social history of a way of life now past," it will surely appeal to natives of the region, readers interested in books about the Mississippi, and anyone curious about "the plain people who lived along the great river and often took their livelihood from it." Erskine Caldwell: A Biography. By Harvey L. Klevar. University of Tennessee Press, 1993. 483 pp. Paper, $19.95. Reviewed by Fred Hobson, professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His most recent publication is Mencken: A Life. Hobson is coeditor of the Southern Literary Journal, and he is coediting the forthcoming Anthology of the Literature of the American South. Erskine Caldwell, long a subject ignored or nearly so by scholars of the first rank, is finally getting a measure of what he long said he didn't care about anyway—literary respectability . Sylvia Cook, a fine student of the fiction of the southern white lower classes, produced Erskine Caldwell and the Fiction ofPoverty in 1991. Wayne Mixon, previously the author of an excellent work about southern fiction of the late nineteenth century, has just completed , a biography of Caldwell. Dan Miller's fine biography of Caldwell was recently published by Knopf. And here we have a well-researched and at least passably written fulllength biography by Harvey Klevar, an anthropologist who ventures into literary fields with more success than literary types might imagine. Why this sudden attention to Caldwell? It isn't just that scholars have come to realize that Faulkner has been done, and done, and done again—and that Warren and Welty and O'Connor and Percy are not terribly far behind. It's also that Caldwell, the author of Tobacco Road, God's Little Aae, and a dozen or so superb short stories of the 1930s 120Southern Cultures and early 1940s, is an interesting study of the author as great success, then failure. In the 1930s Caldwell was often placed in the company of Hemingway and Wolfe—and sometimes Faulkner, although Faulkner hadn't fully taken hold—as one of America's finest writers. His graphic depictions of southern poverty and his sensitive portraits (particularly in short stories) of individuals, white and black, struggling against social and economic odds led Louis Untermeyer and Joseph Wood Krutch to place him near the top and prompted another critic, Lewis Gannett, to call him the most distinguished American writer of the time. Ten years later, however, Caldwell was—in all critical camps—assigned to the minor leagues. Ten years after that he was dismissed as a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 119-121
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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