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169 Book Reviews onward to future plans. Trethewey’s annus mirabilis of 2012 will likely prove a watershed in her life and work, however, one that may well necessitate a later collection. Trethewey is widely recognized as the major poet she has become today. If her poetry continues to flourish as it has thus far, then she might become the finest Southern poet of our new century, one who is very nicely introduced by Conversations with Natasha Trethewey. Western Kentucky University Joseph Millichap Delta Fragments: The Recollections of a Sharecropper’s Son. John O. Hodges. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2013. 228 pages. $22.50 paper. JOHN HODGES NEARLY SUCCEEDS IN HIS SCHOLARLY RESISTANCE TO writing autobiographical art, but, fortunately for the future, only nearly. In writing his introduction, he achieves a more telling epiphany. During his twenty years of researching these enlightening and pithy vignettes, he even avoided being lodged with relatives and friends so as to maintain presumed objectivity. His rather lofty goal, of course, was impossible to achieve anyway. If the last fifty years of critical and cultural theory have proved anything at all, it surely must be that such academic distancing proves impossible in the real world. The historical, personal, and communal narratives are interwoven so organically into the storytelling as to make distinctions of the kind reductive. In writing about his personal history, Hodges looks to discover an ideal medium to express the communal life of the entire Mississippi Delta, laying bare the soul that produced his success as a doctoral graduate of the University of Chicago and later a professor of religious studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. If, in the resistance to writing autobiography instead of scholarship, he does not claim to achieve aesthetic distance, at leastheaccomplishesaninvestigativeposturethatenableshimtonarrate his personal journey. At first glance, he grounds his account in the traditional representations by David L. Cohn in Where I Was Born and Raised (1948) and William Alexander Percy’s Lanterns on the Levee: Recollections of a Planter’s Son (1941). In the more creative vein, the African American classics Richard Wright’s Black Boy (1945) and Anne 170 Mississippi Quarterly Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968) had not extended the regional narrative beyond the late twenties (in Wright’s) and Martin Luther King’s death (in Moody’s). As will become clear later, Hodges tells the Mississippi story through a clarifying lens as witnessed by a native son of darker complexion over the last half century. Rather than present the narrative as a coherent plot line, advancing in linear fashion from the beginning to the end of the story, he carefully structures countless vignettes, digestible bites of thematic and cultural histories. Historically, female autobiography and fiction have often employed such a strategy, eschewing the very idea of a grand narrative in preference for emotional clusters of revelation: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861), by Harriet Jacobs; Maude Martha (1953), by Gwendolyn Brooks; and even To the Lighthouse (1927), by Virginia Woolf. While all of the works suggest variations on a theme and form, the idea is that personal enlightenment happens unexpectedly through surprises. Initially, a consideration of the purpose and design of the Hodges book will facilitate the clarity of the socio-historical landscape. Finally, there will emerge the book’s intriguing implications for autobiographical theory. Often it is precisely the hidden, subconscious, artistic dimension that distinguishes the current work. As Cohn has already noted, the Mississippi Delta extends from the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis to Catfish Row in Vicksburg. A fertile strip of level earth in the northwestern area of the boundary, the Delta runs alongside the Mississippi River, reaching inward past Greenwood. In the shape suggested by the name, it extends one hundred and sixty miles on a trajectory North to South and sixty more on the East-West line. Ten counties exist entirely within the space and several others partially within it. Though whites may well outnumber blacks in the entire state, the African American population in the Delta exceeds seventy percent. In addition, according to the 2010 US Census, the population of the Delta represents the majority of the poor in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2689-517X
Print ISSN
0026-637X
Pages
pp. 169-172
Launched on MUSE
2020-02-27
Open Access
No
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