Fred Chappell

Home Fred Chappell
George Garrett: 1929-2008
Post

George Garrett: 1929-2008

A few years ago, an editor at The Oxford American telephoned to request that I write a piece for that journal about the Calder Willingham-Fred Chappell feud.  I struggled to recall the brief episode wherein I corresponded with that screenwriter

Writer and Community
Post

Writer and Community

Most writers feel honored by literary prizes—in the way I feel so honored by the award of the T.S. Eliot prize—whether they accept them or not. At the same time, many writers share the wish that their vocation could be

Beautiful Excess
Post

Beautiful Excess

The Hard to Catch Mercy, William Baldwin’s entrancing first novel, is bound to remind some readers of Mark Twain, especially of some of the bleaker pages of moral fables like The Mysterious Stranger and The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg

Ancestors
Post

Ancestors

With the deaths of Robert Penn Warren and Walker Percy the specter of the star system is loose again in the land. “Who will be their successors? Who will pick up their mantle?” It’s a plaintive cry, predictable but genuine,

Poems and McPoems
Post

Poems and McPoems

“Even one verse alone sometimes makes a perfect poem.”
—Ben Jonson

It was Donald Hall who gave us that useful and precise critical term “McPoem” to describe the garden variety contemporary poem in flabby free verse whose dismal ambitions are

Large Canvas, Long Reach
Post

Large Canvas, Long Reach

Madison Smartt Bell has a penchant for keeping his fiction mysterious at its deepest core. The protagonist of his 1985 novel, Waiting for the End of the World, is a fellow called Larkin who is out to destroy New

Post

Understand Me Completely

Ordinary people, we are told, ordinarily speak in cliches, bromides, and dotty banalities, and it is the task of the literary artist, of the playwright in particular, to give them expressive and convincing words. This is the practice of Aeschylus

Alien Worlds
Post

Alien Worlds

She was a handsome woman, Raylene Thomason, not what you’d call beautiful, but with Cherokee blood that gave her a broad pleasant face with a clean jawline and steady dark eyes. She took her looks so much for granted that

Post

Prodigal Son

“Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them.
Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.”

—Oscar Wilde

Louis Simpson stands as an easy example of the poet divided, whose best talents and strongest predilections are at

Paz
Post

Paz

“Amazed at the moment’s peak,
flesh became word—and the word fell.”

—Octavio Paz, A Draft of Shadows

Upon a confirmed gringo like me, contemporary Spanish language poetry makes much the same impression as contemporary Spanish or Latin American concert

Post

Visionary Fiction

Susan had set up the ironing board in the kitchen and upended the iron there while she sprinkled her blouse. I could not detect the heat waves rising from the face of the iron, but the morning sun showed them

Post

A Fool in the Forest

“Shall they hoist me up and show me to the shouting
varletry of censuring Rome?”

—William Shakespeare

The true facts of the case will lie hidden in time forever. For our purpose here, we can accept the official version; that

Still, Sad Music
Post

Still, Sad Music

“A poet in our times is a semi-
barbarian in a civilized community.”

—Thomas Love Peacock

Something happened. The juice went out of it, the largest joy. There may arise figures analogous to Emily Dickinson, or even to John Clare,

The Poet and the Plowman
Post

The Poet and the Plowman

Surprisingly often we talked about Vergil, usually about the Aeneid, but sometimes about the Georgics, and then with the wry sentimental fondness of old students who had been made, not quite willingly, to go to school to the

Post

The Sheriff and the Goatman

“May not a man have several
voices . . . as well as two complexions?”

—Nathaniel Hawthorne

In George Garrett’s stories the conflict often arises between a wild lone Outsider and a generally conscientious but insecure Establishment figure; in Peter

American Idol
Post

American Idol

“Eldorado banal de tous les vieux gargons.”
—Charles Baudelaire

The last sentence in Russell Banks’s magnificent novel is surprising in its inevitability: “Go, my book, and help destroy the world as it is.” Here is a sentence to conclude a

Powder Puffs & Loose Peanuts
Post

Powder Puffs & Loose Peanuts

“It is a hard task to treat what is common in a way of your own.” -Horace

Jill McCorkle: The Cheer Leader; Algonquin Books; Chapel Hill, NC; $15.95.

Jill McCorkle: July 7th; Algonquin Books; Chapel Hill, NC; $17.95.

Louis

Novelizing Novelists
Post

Novelizing Novelists

Thrice-rendered Enderby slenderly lives again. In the 1974  novel, The Clockwork Testament, Anthony Burgess dispatched to eternity his gross, grotty, gastric poet; New York City slaughtered the luckless English bard with a heart attack. But here he is again in