In The One Voice of James Dickey, Gordon Van Ness skillfully documents James Dickey’s growth from a callow teen interested primarily in sports to a mature poet who possessed literary genius and who deliberately advanced himself and his career. The letters from 1942 through 1969 depict Dickey gradually establishing a self-identity, deciding to write, struggling to determine a subject matter and style, working determinedly to gain initial recognition, and eventually seeking out the literary establishment to promote himself and his views on poetry. The letters also portray a complex personality with broad interests, acute intelligence, and heightened imagination as well as a deep need to re-create his past and assume various roles in the present.
From Dickey’s extensive correspondence, Van Ness has selected not only those letters that best reveal the chronological development of Dickey’s career and his conscious efforts to chart its course, but also those that portray his other interests and depict the various features of his personality. The letters are grouped by decade, with each period placed in perspective by a critical introduction. The introductory sections offer a psychological understanding of Dickey’s personality by identifying the needs and fears that affected his actions. They also explain the American literary and cultural scene that Dickey confronted as he matured. Together, the letters and commentary yield a sense of Dickey’s complex personality—both the man as a writer and the writer as a man—while arguing that he remained “one voice.”
Because how a writer writes—the appearance of a writer’s words on a page—makes a statement, the letters are reproduced here without alterations. There are no silent deletions or revisions; the original spelling and punctuation have been preserved. Dickey’s letters gathered in The One Voice of James Dickey portray a poet’s consciousness, chronicling its growth and revealing its breadth. They do not contain the whole truth, but they are what we have.
This book completes and complements the first volume of the letters and life of James Dickey. Picking up where the previous volume left off, The One Voice of James Dickey: His Letters and Life, 1970–1997 chronicles Dickey’s career from the unparalleled success of his novel Deliverance in 1970 through his poetic experimentation in such books as The Eye Beaters, Blood, Victory, Madness, Buckhead and Mercy and Puella until his death in 1997. A prolific correspondent, Dickey tried to write at least three letters a day, and these letters provide a unique way for Gordon Van Ness to portray the vast and varied panorama of Dickey’s life.
The letters are grouped by decade largely because Dickey’s life was so very different in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. The chapter titles and their progression, as in the first volume, reflect Dickey’s sense that his life and career were a kind of warfare and that he was on a mission. A final section, “Debriefings,” offers a concise overview of Dickey’s full career. In earlier chapters, letters to people as varied as Saul Bellow, Arthur Schlesinger, and Robert Penn Warren indicate Dickey’s belief that this correspondence was a valuable networking tool, likely to open up new opportunities, while other letters, such as ones to Dickey’s oldest son, Christopher, expose the tender aspects of the author’s character.
No other critical study so well projects the development of Dickey’s career while simultaneously exhibiting the diversity of his interests and the often-conflicting sides of his personality. In the strictest sense, this volume is not a life-in-letters, but it does provide a general sense of Dickey’s comings, goings, and doings. Van Ness’s selection of letters suggests an acute understanding of Dickey, and his editorial commentary examines and reveals Dickey’s brilliance.
The American literary canon has been the subject of debate and change for at least a decade. As women writers and writers of color are being rediscovered and acclaimed, the question of whether they are worthy of inclusion remains open.
The (Other) American Traditions brings together for the first time in one place, essays on individual writers and traditions that begin to ask the harder questions. How do we talk about these writers once we get beyond the historical issues? How is their work related to their male counterparts? How is it similar: how is it different? Are differences related to gender or race or class? How has the selection of books in the literary canon (Melville, Hawthorne, Emerson, and James) led to a definition of the American tradition that was calculated to exclude women? Do we need a new critical vocabulary to discuss these works? Should we stop talking about a tradition and begin to talk about many traditions? How did black American women writers develop strategies for speaking out when they were doubly in jeopardy of being ignored as blacks and as women? The volume offers irrefutable proof that the writers, the critics who work on their texts, all these questions, and the expansion of the canon matter very much indeed.
Contributors: Nina Baym, Deborah Carlin, Joanne Dobson, Josephine Donovan, Judith Fetterley, Frances Smith Foster, Susan K. Harris, Karla F.C. Holloway, Paul Lauter, Diane Lichtenstein, Carla L. Peterson, Carol J. Singley, Jane Tompkins, Joyce W. Warren and Sandra A. Zagarell.
Effie Marquess Carmack (1885-1974) grew up in the tobacco-growing region of southern Kentucky known as the Black Patch. As an adult she moved to Utah, back to Kentucky, to Arizona, and finally to California. Economic necessity primarily motivated Effie and her husband's moves, but her conversion to the Mormon Church in youth also was a factor. Throughout her life, she was committed to preserving the rural, southern folkways she had experienced as a child. She and other members of her family were folk musicians, at times professionally, and she also became a folk poet and artist, teaching herself to paint. In the 1940s she began writing her autobiography and eventually also completed a verse adaptation of it and an unpublished novel about life in the Black Patch.
Much of Effie's story is a charming memoir of her vibrant childhood on a poor tobacco farm. She describes a wide variety of folk practices, from healing and crafts to children's games. Her family's life included the backbreaking labor and economic trials of raising tobacco, but it was enriched by a deep familial heritage, communal music, creative play, and traditional activities of many kinds. After the family converted to the Mormon Church, religious study and devotion became another important dimension. Effie's account of Mormon missions contributes to the little-known record of Latter-day Saint attempts to establish a presence in the South.
After marrying, the Carmacks moved west, eventually landing in the Arizona desert, where Effie took up painting in earnest. Her art began to attract modest attention, which brought exhibits, awards, and a new career teaching others what she had taught herself. After the Carmacks later retired to Atascadero, California, Effie became a more active and public folk singer as well.
Walter Van Tilburg Clark, author of the classic novel The Ox-Bow Incident, was one of the West’s most important literary figures, a writer who contributed mightily to the tradition of viewing the West realistically and not through the veil of myth and romance. As a comparatively young man, he published three novels and a collection of short stories, then remained almost silent for the rest of his life, the victim of a paralyzing case of writer’s block. Now Jackson J. Benson, one of the country’s foremost literary biographers, has produced the first full-length biography of this brilliant, enigmatic, and ultimately tragic figure. Based on widely scattered sources—personal papers and correspondence; interviews with family members, friends, and others; and Clark’s unpublished stories and poems—Benson’s biography focuses on Clark’s intellectual and literary life as a writer, teacher, and westerner. Benson masterfully balances his engaging account of the experiences, people, and settings of Clark’s life with a penetrating examination of his complex psyche and the crippling perfectionism that virtually ended Clark’s career, as well as offering up a thoughtful assessment of Clark’s place in Western writing. In these pages, Clark lives again, a warm, complex, and ultimately anguished human being. Benson’s remarkably astute and sensitive biography is destined to be the book that readers and researchers consult first for information about this major western writer.