Harvard Goes South

"Ce sonts les modernes qui font des progies.
Nous sommes betes une fois pour toutes."


This curious big book is an amalgam of left-wing scholarship and commercial panache. On the one hand, the author, a Harvard Ph.D. in American Civilization and a missionary to South Carolina, seems to have enjoyed extended foundation support during the production of this book, as well as a good deal of paid assistance in the drudgery of transcription and research. And his work has received respectful attention in both the New York Times and the New York Times Book Review.

On the other hand, a generous publisher has secured for Tombee a bookclub selection and has allowed the author an indulgent 750 pages to present the biography and diary of a relatively obscure and historically insignificant planter on the Sea Islands of the South Carolina coast. The chain bookstores, in my portion of the Union at least, were piled high with copies of Tombee for the Christmas trade, suggesting a hope of capitalizing on the century-and-a-half-old preoccupation of the American reading public with the Old South that made best-sellers out of Uncle Tom, Uncle Remus, "Marse Chan," Gone With the Wind, and Roots.

Contained within these bulging covers are two potentially good books, each about a third the size of the artifact...

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