Few if any are better endowed than George Garrett to comment on the
general and the particular, the long and the short, of southern
letters in our time. Garrett- a prolific and internationally
renowned author of fiction, poetry, drama, and biography as well as
a teacher, editor, critic, and frequent jurist for literary
competitions- has been immersed in the writers and literature of
his native region for almost a half century. Southern Excursions
contains more than fifty of the best essays, reviews, and other
short pieces of his career. For the connoisseur of good writing,
this book is a depository, a treasure, a veritable time capsule of
southern, literary, and American culture. Without sacrificing
reverence for modern masters such as Faulkner, O'Connor, and Welty,
Garrett has consistently embraced worthy new artists through the
years, deftly and judiciously drawing the line between critical
acclaim and popular success. Payton Davis, Shelby Foote, Walker
Percy, William HoVman, Madison Jones, Reynolds Price, Robert
Morgan, R. H. W. Dillard, Wendell Berry, Doris Betts, William
Goyen, Mary Lee Settle, Randall Kenan, David Huddle, Allan
Gurganus, Dorothy Allison- these are a few of the writers Garrett
has championed. If some names sound less familiar, Garrett, in
these pages, will inspire readers to swift investigation. The
author's charm, wit, and anecdotal style make reading Southern
Excursions a delight, and yet there's no mistaking his erudition.
Wise like a prophet, with a talent scout's enthusiasm, Garrett is
not afraid to tell unwelcome truths, covering topics that include
southern publishing houses and literary quarterlies, the alliance
between writers and academia, the state of criticism and theory,
and, most eloquently, the persistence of place, memory, and the
Civil War as themes in southern letters. Southern Excursions is a
book for the ages, stowing as it does the sage views of one as
learned, respected- and modest- in his time as George Garrett. ""My
strong suggestion [to readers],"" he states, ""is to plunge in and
fare forward. Experience the story before turning to or trusting
the opinions and judgments of others, myself included.
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