Last week, we received word that Marion Montgomery was dying. He had been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer only days earlier and had already fallen into the deep sleep that so often precedes death. By the weekend he was gone.
The funeral was held on Saturday in an Anglican Catholic Church in Athens, Georgia. The pews were jammed with kinfolk, parishioners, academics, former students, and a lot of faces you didn’t expect to see—country people: a long-bearded man in overalls, women in full-skirted cotton dresses, perhaps a little uncomfortable in a church where people genuflected and made the Sign of the Cross.
Few of these had ever read a word Marion had written, but they knew him as a friend and neighbor working on some secret project in a small, second-story office in the tiny town of Crawford. When they asked him what he was doing up there, he would say, “I’m building an airplane.”
Actually, he was writing poetry, fiction, and commentary; hundreds of poems, some of them collected in three volumes; numerous short stories, three substantial novels and a novella; and 17 books of literary and cultural criticism. He wrote most of these on an upright Underwood typewriter that dated back to the 1930’s. After he finished the first draft of a manuscript, he would turn it over to a typist;...