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Studies in American Fiction251 be studiously impressive; but as with much of John Ruskin's criticism of a century ago, the final judgment of its value can be made simply by looking at the works held up for praise. In Wilde's earlier Horizons ofAssent (John Hopkins Univ. Press, 1981), the prototypical masterpiece was Renata Adler's Speedboat; in Middle Grounds, it is Ted Mooney's Easy Travel to Other Planets. These choices reflect Wilde's own wish to spend time with writers who are funny and warm, sharply intelligent yet caring. It is an understandable impulse, but one that has little to do with the development of serious American fiction. University of Northern IowaJerome Klinkowitz Brooks, Cleanth. On the Prejudices, Predilections, and Firm Beliefs of William Faulkner. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1987. 162 pp. Cloth: $16.95. For a quarter-century, Cleanth Brooks has been one of the leading critics of William Faulkner. His authority has always been based in his close, lucid explications des textes combined with an intimate knowledge of the Southern culture he shares with Faulkner himself. These two strengths are also basic, and everywhere apparent, in this collection of lectures and papers he has gathered together—many of them previously published—since 1971. There are, therefore, few surprises for the student of Faulkner. An opening essay on Faulkner and the Fugitive Poets argues that this young group of Vanderbilt artists were quick to recognize Faulkner's abilities, although Robert Penn Warren was more supportive than most; what they shared was their love of the land as sacred and an admiration for the yeoman farmer; they were all critical of the one-crop plantation system. Two other essays deal directly with Faulkner and Christianity, where Brooks is clear to point out that, despite his own illustrative readings, his sense of Faulkner's essential stoicism while remaining "rather close to the Christian revelation" (p. 16) is not essentially different from the conclusion earlier reached by John Hunt, whose work he admires. Another essay addresses a subject which has always been central to Brooks' understanding of Faulkner, his love of community. His sense of the communal relationships in a town like Oxford-Jefferson, according to Brooks, sets Faulkner apart from the loners of Ernest Hemingway and even the more superficial Gopher Prairie of Sinclair Lewis. Here much attention is paid to Light in August—which is the book most frequently treated in this collection— but he frames this lecture-essay with an analysis of the community voice in "A Rose for Emily." In a useful re-examination of Faulkner's early New Orleans sketches, Brooks points to the largely unrecognized influence of the fiction of Irvin S. Cobb (as well as Sherwood Anderson); still other selections discuss the place of Memphis in Faulkner's work (as the cosmopolitan center for Yoknapatawpha, variously treated); the considerable number of "motherless" children in Faulkner; Faulkner's women in Light in August and The Hamlet (where the range extends from "at least one example of perfect love" in Lucy and Jack Houston to "the prostitute, Bobbie Allen"); the chivalric tradition in the South as exemplified in Gavin Stevens (who replaces the earlier Horace Benbow); the British reception of Faulkner (especially their stubborn misunderstanding of his stylistic techniques and achievements); and Faulkner's interest in the American Dream, the unfinished book of essays he began which centers on privacy and humanist individualism. "My hope," Brooks remarks in his preface, "is that [these essays] will come at typical Faulknerian topics from a new angle or make use of a new focus and so justify their inclusion here." Occasionally this occurs. He redefines Young Bayard's confrontation with Redmond not as "repudiation" of the Southern code but as "transcendence" over it (p. 23); he compares the repudiation of Hightower's congregation to an organist who once walked out of a church service when she learned that an adulterous couple had joined their congregation 252Reviews (p. 36); he recalls from his childhood in Tennessee that Gypsies were reputed to blow up animals with bicycle pumps as Pat Stamper presumably does in The Hamlet (p. 64); and he can associate with characters in The Unvanquished...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2158-5806
Print ISSN
0091-8083
Pages
pp. 251-252
Launched on MUSE
2014-10-01
Open Access
No
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