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speaking I am still a gloomy Georgia Presbyterian." And his comments on his contemporaries are equally interesting, particularly his assessment ofWilliam Styron 's Sophie's Choice. He thought more highly ofthe novel than Foote, who labeled Styron's work "some of the absolutely worst writing Ive [sic] read in years." Indeed , Percy admired Styron for taking on the subject of the Holocaust—and believed he was an excellent writer. But Percy also felt Styron was a self-indulgent writer who substituted "excess and giganticism" for art: "Book as orgasm. Let it all hang out." Although the letters are often full of kidding and funning, sometimes Percy— as in a letter written after he has learned that his prostate cancer has spread—can be serious indeed. "I'll tell you what I've discovered," he writes Foote in July 1989. "Dying, if that's what it comes to, is no big thing since I'm ready for it, and prepared for it by the Catholic faith which I believe. What is a pain is not even the pain but the nuisance. It is a tremendous bother (and expense) to everyone. Worst of all is the indignity." Percy died nine months after writing that. His was a good death, as Percy deaths had gone. At least, unlike his father, his grandfather, and—he believed— his mother, he had not given in to the family urge for self-destruction, had in fact died peacefully in his own bed. When it was clear he was dying, Foote drove down from Memphis to be with him, and he gave his own impression of the scene. "Sad time, but a good time, too," he wrote, this time not in a letter to his friend but in his diary. A Communion of the Spirits African-American Quilters, Preservers, and Their Stories By Roland L. Freeman Roudedge Hill Press, 1996 396 pp. Cloth, $34.95 Reviewed by David Crosby, professor ofEnglish and mass communications, Alcorn State University in Lorman, Mississippi. Crosby is currendy at work on a monograph on the work of quilters associated with Mississippi Cultural Crossroads, a community educational and cultural organization in Port Gibson, Mississippi, which promotes local quilts and quilters. The frontispiece ofA Communion ofthe Spirits is a very familiar image for those who have followed Roland Freeman's photo-documentary work over the last Reviews 87 twenty years. Taken in August 1976, the black-and-white photograph shows Hettie Barnes, a quilter from Wilkinson County, Mississippi, sitting in a rocking chair on her front porch, reading a newspaper, and having her hair plaited by her granddaughter. The iconography of this single image captures many of the themes that have dominated Freeman's work from then to now: both woman and child appear in their work or play clothes and are barefoot in the August heat, but the clothing is neat and clean. The child's hair is well groomed with plaits front and back and a bow; she in turn grooms her grandmother, who is quiedy absorbed in the news ofthe day. The grandmother wears a ring on her wedding finger , and a white oak basket, made by her husband, Hal Barnes, sits behind her rocker. Neither subject looks at the photographer; they appear fully attuned to the wordless communication that passes between them. The themes of family solidarity and comfort, ofdignity in the face ofa society that has litde regard for economically marginal rural people, of continuity in cultural expression through the generations—these are characteristic of Freeman's black-and-white prints published over the years in Folkroots (1977), Southern Roads, City Pavements (1981), The Arabbers ofBaltimore (1989), and Stand By Me: African American Expressive Culture in Philadelphia (1989). Also characteristic are the less obvious themes that make the image more complex and less comforting: the implication of a generation missing between grandparents and grandchild, the light skin tones that signal a dual (or perhaps plural) racial heritage that may not always have been achieved by mutual consent, the wonderful surprise of the role reversal as the child takes care of the adult. But if the themes are familiar, there is nothing in Freeman's previous work that compares to the...


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