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The South rises again Aug 19, 2004
Visceral. Evocative. Blunt. Vital. Erotic. Wise. Joyful. Painful. Fearless. These are but a few adjectives that apply to this remarkable collection of stories and poems by Southern writers, featuring such talents as Tom Franklin, Suzanne Hudson and Brad Watson. Here their work is brought together in an anthology that is an imaginative banquet of ideas and emotions.
There are poignant stories of love gone wrong and the tender violence of strangers who meet in the night, as a young woman catches a thief and turns the tables to exact her revenge on a distant father; the loneliness between a childless woman and her husband; the unconscious cruelty of teenaged girls, too self-absorbed to recognize tragedy unless it directly touches them; the resurfacing memory of lust in a marriage gone brittle, weighted by a quiet desperation and hopelessness.
In the first story, "Christians" by Tom Franklin (Hell at the Breech), an aggrieved woman begins a long journey of the soul in quest of a burying preacher, abandoned and bereft, her faith stronger than the harsh land that has taken both son and husband. Given the brutal nature of her reality, it is shocking that her faith survives at all. Poet Beth Ann Fennelly mines the secret heart of motherhood, the self-doubts and small jealousies that quickly surface and quietly dissipate. Her intimate poetry exposes the complex emotions of childbirth, that precious burden destined to weigh on the heart for a lifetime; at the same time, Fennelly embraces the deep eroticism of the mother-child connection.
In a stunning tale of misshapen love, Suzanne Hudson portrays a severely dysfunctional family, acting out its small, painful drama, actions warped by generations of ignorance and nascent fear. Hudson addresses the tragic consequences of battered, barely redeemable lives; that the story was written 34 years ago is a testament to the power of Hudson's vision. Finally, in Brad Watson's haunting "Water Dog God", desecrated innocence finds release through the ministrations of a well-intentioned relative
This is an exceptionally rewarding compilation of fresh work from accomplished Southern writers, each contributing a small jewel. In the introduction, Suzanne Kingsbury describes these stories as "grave markers where you stop and remember and again lift the stone and again are rebirthed". The Alumni Grill, An Anthology of Southern Writers is nothing less than a welcome feast for the senses. Luan Gaines/2004.