Three Voices From the South

Nearly sixty years ago John Peale Bishop published a remarkable essay in the Virginia Quarterly Review entitled "The South and Tradition." In it he ruminated on the Old South—its glories and failings—and said that the South had a civilization because like civilizations elsewhere (in Rome, France, England) there was "a continuous succession of manners, which apply not only to the fine arts but, perhaps, more essentially, to the arts of living." These arts of living, what critics since have called manners and morals, gave Bishop and the writers of his generation in the South a valuable lode to mine and countermine. That is especially true of the novelists and short story writers who have written about the South since the late 20's—from Wolfe, Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, Caroline Gordon, and Bishop himself to Andrew Lytle, Robert Penn Warren, and James Agee to William Styron, George Garrett, Elizabeth Spencer, Clyde Edgerton, and Jill McCorkle.

The writers whom we are considering here come from the generation born in the teens and 20's. Charles Edward Eaton, who was born in 1916, is the oldest of them; Nancy Huddleston Packer, the youngest. Each of the three has written regularly in more than one mode: Eaton as a poet, William Hoffman as a novelist. Packer as a memoirist. All have had academic appointments and longtime academic connections, but only Packer has taught full-time...

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