Voices of the South

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

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Voices of the South

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Guest of a Sinner

A Novel

James Wilcox

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Landscapes of the Heart

A Memoir

Elizabeth Spencer

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Miss Undine's Living Room

A Novel

James Wilcox

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Modern Baptists

A Novel

James Wilcox

Universally and repeatedly praised ever since it first appeared in 1983, Modern Baptists is the book that launched novelist James Wilcox's career and debuted the endearingly daft community of Tula Springs, Louisiana. It's the tale of Bobby Pickens, assistant manager of Sonny Boy Bargain Store, who gains a new lease on life, though he almost comes to regret it. Bobby's handsome half brother F.X. -- ex-con, ex-actor, and ex-husband three times over -- moves in, and things go awry all over town. Mistaken identities; entangled romances with Burma, Toinette, and Donna Lee; assault and battery; charges of degeneracy; a nervous breakdown -- it all comes to a head at a Christmas Eve party in a cabin on a poisoned swamp. This is sly, madcap romp that offers readers the gift of abundant laughter.

Modern Baptists was included in Harold Bloom's The Western Canon, in GQ magazine's forty-fifth anniversary issue as one of the best works of fiction in the past forty-five years, and among Toni Morrison's "favorite works by unsung writers" in U.S. News and World Report.

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North Gladiola

A Novel

James Wilcox

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Not in Vain

A Rifleman Remembers World War II

Leon C. Standifer

Growing up in a small college town in central Mississippi in the 1930s, Leon C. Standifer knew little of the trauma of war. But by the time he was nineteen, World War II had made war a reality for him. Standifer volunteered for and was accepted by a special army program that would send him to college for technical training; he somtimes hoped and sometimes feared that the war would end before his training did. Events turned out quite otherwise. A serious shortage of trained riflemen needed for the invasion of Normandy meant that Standifer and more than one hundred thousand other young men were taken from the program and sent into battle as combat infantrymen.

Not in Vain: A Rifleman Remembers World War II looks at American involvement in the war from the firsthand perspective of this nineteen-year-old soldier. As an infantryman in France and Germany during the latter part of the war, Standifer experienced the numbing boredom of daily routine and the adrenaline-pumping excitement of combat. He recalls the anguish of losing friends in battle and the decisive moment when he slit the throat of an enemy soldier, memories that still haunt him.

But Not in Vain is far more than a conventional soldier's memoir. Although he recounts in vivid detail his personal experiences, Standifer also makes a far broader inquiry into the forces that turned a sheltered young man from a religious, small-town background into an effective soldier. Growing up in the Baptist church, Standifer thought he had learned the differences between good and evil, right and wrong. But after his days in battle, moral distinctions were no longer as clear.

Not in Vain documents Standifer's lifelong debate with himself over the justification for war by considering not only his reactions during combat but also the feelings that have remained with him for life. He describes these intense emotions in his account of a trip taken to Europe many years after the war and of his reunion with some of the former members of his rifle company. Written in an effort to come to terms with his involvement in the war, Not in Vain is a probing and timely study of a citizen's dedication to his country.

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The Salt Line

A Novel

Elizabeth Spencer

"Spencer's refined, sensuous writing and laser insights inform this novel, as extraordinary as her other works." -- Publishers Weekly

At a certain point approaching the Mississippi coast, the air fills with the salt smell of the Gulf of Mexico. For all of the characters in Elizabeth Spencer's gracefully written novel, the salt line divides past and present, memory and longing, tranquillity and danger. Crossing it places everyone in the chaotic path of Arnie Carrington, former professor and 1960s campus radical, who is on a crusade to restore the small Gulf Coast town of Notchaki after the devastation of Hurricane Camille. Threatening the enterprise is the arrival of Arnie's former colleague Lex Graham, who intends to use his wealth to squash his longtime rival's plans for the area's rejuvenation.

The romantic, generous Carrington attracts a wide array of devotees -- Frank Matteo, a Mafia-connected restaurateur trying to go straight; Mavis, the pregnant girlfriend Frank has rejected; Dorothy, Lex's unstable wife, who wants to resume an ancient affair with Arnie; and Lex's cherished daughter Lucinda, a coquette who fancies Arnie's idealism.

The characters in The Salt Line are rebuilding, reckoning with old ghosts, liberating repressed passions, and getting back into life. Elaborately and densely populated, masterfully plotted, and elegant in style, Spencer has woven a tale about the lines that bind, divide, and envelop people.

"Appealing... eloquent... it won't disappoint you." -- New York Times

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The Voice at the Back Door

A Novel

Elizabeth Spencer

In the mid-1950s, the town of Lacey in the Mississippi hill country is a place where the lives of blacks and whites, though seemingly separate, are in fact historically and inevitably intertwined. When Lacey's fair-haired boy, Duncan Harper, is appointed interim sheriff, he makes public his private convictions about the equality of blacks before the law, and the combined threat and promise he represents to the understood order of things in Lacey affects almost every member of the community. In the end, Harper succeeds in pointing the way for individuals, both black and white, to find a more harmonious coexistence, but at a sacrifice all must come to regret.

In The Voice at the Back Door, Mississippi native Elizabeth Spencer gives form to the many voices that shaped her view of race relations while growing up, and at the same time discovers her own voice -- one of hope. Employing her extraordinary literary powers -- finely honed narrative techniques, insight into a rich, diverse cast of characters, and an unerring ear for dialect -- Spencer makes palpable the psychological milieu of a small southern town hobbled by tradition but lurching toward the dawn of the civil rights movement. First published in 1956, The Voice at the Back Door is Spencer's most highly praised novel yet, and her last to treat small-town life in Mississippi.

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