Wilson_Review
Reviews

Men of Letters

George Garrett, Chronicles’ most distinguished contributing editor, can be relied upon, always, to tell it like it is.  He is doing just that when he writes in a blurb to Reinventing the South: “[T]hese essays are splendidly written—mercifully free of contemporary critical jargon and easily accessible to the good and serious reader.”  And he amplifies this description of Professor Winchell’s work with a reference to “high intelligence joining wit, good humor, and common sense.”

Though not in Garrett’s class as a critic (or anything else), I had the same reaction.  Winchell compliments two of his mentors in Southern literature, Walter Sullivan and Monroe K. Spears, when he judges them to be not just academics but genuine men of letters.  These essays justify awarding the same honorable title to Winchell himself.

Professor Winchell, biographer of Donald Davidson and Cleanth Brooks, devotes a lot of attention to the Agrarians and their disciples.  He has interesting new things to say about Robert Penn Warren, and his “Arkansas Traveler” is the best treatment I have seen of that difficult subject, John Gould Fletcher.  Other essays take up William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, William Humphrey, and Cormac McCarthy.  But these are more than literary discussions.  Winchell’s merit lies especially in his...

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