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234Reviews emblems of self-sufficiency and independence. . . . But the two buildings signify more impressively the deeply marginal, almost utterly ceremonial quality of their occupants' dissent. Thoreau, insulated by family and friends from any serious venturing, carries his laundry into Concord each weekend for his aunt to wash. Edna, attended by a servant or two, and sustained by a small legacy and gambling winnings, settles down to paint (p. 166). This is grossly reductive. It not only undervalues Thoreau's genuine achievement but also refuses to acknowledge the many and complex reasons for Edna's failure. And what are we to make of the praise (somewhat tentative, to be sure) of Booker T. Washington on the tenuous ground that his sociology "recapitulates Marxist biology"? (p. 127). Or of the announcement that "DuBois's personal bewilderment was caused . . . by the failure of history in his lifetime to go forward"? (p. 149). Behind such a statement must lie a complacent assurance that one knows what history is, knows exactly where it has been, and knows equally exactly where it is or ought to be going. The completeness of such asssurance is not only naive and arbitrary but more than a little frightening. In short, while this is often a provocative book, it is also deeply flawed. University of Illinois at ChicagoChadwick Hansen Brinkmeyer, Robert H., Jr. Three Catholic Writers of the Modern South. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1985. 190 pp. Cloth: $20.00. Robert Brinkmeyer does well to launch his study of three Southern converts, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, and Walker Percy, by quoting Flannery O'Connor, born a Southern Catholic. Appropriately enough, her name surfaces intermittently through Brinkmeyer's text as she becomes a kind of touchstone for spiritual dilemmas. The example of her sureness about her faith seems to be measured against their uncertainties. All three, as Brinkmeyer reminds us, were personally involved with the Georgia writer; Caroline Gordon , for example, served for many years as O'Connor's literary mentor, as a crucial shaper of her art. Three Catholic Writers of the Modern South offers a nice mix of biography, literary criticism, and theological speculation. A brief introduction neatly defines the contours of the study by suggesting points of convergence among the converts. The lengthy first section is devoted to the prolonged spiritual agony of Allen Tate's career. Brinkmeyer painstakingly traces his increasingly reluctant Agrarianism and his various flirtations with the Roman Catholic Church on the way to his conversion in 1950. Tate's "haunting awareness of sin and guilt" (p. 38) is handled with sympathy and understanding by a critic who seems uniquely tuned into the vibrations of his subject's faith and art. The chapter on Tate, the longest in the book, offers a compelling narrative of a career which kept veering away from the literary priesthood and Modernism toward a condition which reconciled faith with art. Brinkmeyer points to Jacques Maritain, St. Augustine, and Dante as the three major presences in Tate's conversion. Through them he "discovered the possibility of remaining a part of the world while at the same time asserting his faith" (p. 64). The three terza-rima poems, which Tate wrote in 1952 and 1953, use the Dantesque form to achieve "his poetic statement of faith" and "his new vision" (p. 71). Studies in American Fiction235 Caroline Gordon's conversion in 1947 was less painful than that of her husband. The chapter of Three Catholic Writers of the Modem South devoted to her career is less convincing than the Tate section. Brinkmeyer, correctly, finds Gordon's novels and stories of the 1930s, especially the 1934 Aleck Maury, Sportsman, the high points of her fictional endeavor. He sees a contrivance setting in after her conversion: "A sudden reversal in the story's motion, often coming in a moment ofextreme violence at the very end of the work. This jolt was Gordon's representation of divine grace manifesting itself in the world" (p. 99). Brinkmeyer comes down rather hard on a novel like The Malefactors (1956) in which a "Catholic deus ex machina device" (p. 105) is oppressively formulaic. He obviously likes this novel less well than Flannery O'Connor did, who ended...


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pp. 234-235
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