Southern writer and who is member-in-good-standing of thenFellowship of Southern Writers), to younger and newernvoices like those of Percival Everett and Randal Kenan.nAll of the above is hopelessly inadequate, but at leastnserves to give a sense of a thriving and, yes, traditionalnenterprise. Which is a point so taken for granted that ournyounger writers in this issue do not feel the need to make itnstrongly. Point is, and truth is, we all know each other—thenwork, anyway. There is great independence, even a certainnanarchy in the Southern tradition; but there is also a sense ofnfamily.nAnother thing not mentioned by our writers here, notnbecause it is taken for granted, but rather because it is sonsensitive and the risks of offense are large and real, is the splitnwithin the family of Southern letters that is directly a resultnof the Civil War and the loss, for the better part of a centurynsince then, of major publishing centers and business in thenSouth. Ever since the Civil War the Southern writers whonhad any kind of national ambitions or aspirations, or thenwriter who worked in forms, drama, for example, whosenprincipal centers of commerce and appreciation are elsewhere,nhas been forced to live up to an alien image of whatnthe Southern writer is supposed to be and to say; and,nbehind that, the subject, itself; the youth presented innapproved and certified Southern literature must conform tonan outsider’s image. Long training in and acceptance of thenforms of good manners and tact have prepared the Southernnwriter for a certain amount of role playing in life and in art.nRole playing on both sides, for example, was and probablynremains a crucial element in the complexities of racenrelations in the South. Similarly, role playing amongnSoutherners, including any number of Southern writers whonhave chosen to move and to live in the North is nothingnnew. To an extent we have all sold out, some minimally andnonly for the sake of survival, others more seriously and fornthe sake of . . . success. Remember some of what Faulknernwrote in his introduction to the Modern Library edition ofnSanctuary? “I began to think of books in terms of possiblenmoney. I decided I might just as well make some of itnmyself I took a little time out, and speculated on what anperson in Mississippi would believe to be the current trends,nchose what I thought was the right answer and invented thenmost horrific tale I could imagine and wrote it in about threenweeks . . .” Shades of Bret Easton Ellis! Of course, there isnmuch more to the Faulkner story than that; it becomes annexemplum of artistic integrity. Many of us have exercisednand demonstrated much less integrity. And this needs to benunderstood. Should I be bold and name names? Should Inoffer that much integrity? Not bloody likely. But let thisnmuch be understood. That to the extent that Southernnwriting is apt to be, on a national scale, commercially orncritically successful it is also likely to conform to imposed or,nanyway, distorted and generalized stereotypes. There isnalways a danger that Southern literature will fall victim tonterminal cuteness. In an age when the words politicallyncorrect can be used without irony or shame, it is always anpossibility that Southern literature will die of a surfeit ofnassertive liberalism.nI need to add this mild warning. Although we have seennthe arrival and expansion of several good, if small. Southernnpublishers in the past decade (Algonquin, Peachtree, Blair,nPalaemon, among others), we must not look to Southernnpublishers to change or to ease this problem. For they, too,nmust prosper nationally to endure and must play their role asnseriously as any ambitious (or desperate) individual. ThenSouthern publishers cannot afford to take many chances.nNot yet.nAnd within the South we have to admit to some othernkinds of role playing, deviations from the strict andnfactual truth. Think how many among us (again, no names,nno, sir) insist on claiming a more genteel or aristocraticnlineage than any facts could be mustered to support. Or,nsometimes in the same family, we lay claim to more rowdyndepths of rednecks, cracker culture than even our bestnfriends would allow. More recently we have two slightnvariations on this theme, both aesthetic: the worldlier-thanthounhard-nosed cynics and then the aesthetes who, thoughnthey may come, deep-rooted, from the deep boonies, try tonallude as knowingly as any Manhattan sophisticate to thenvintage wines of the world, to great foreign cities and foreignnphilosophers and artists. I have a poet friend who maintainsnthat an absolute test of the fraudulent is the contemporarynAmerican writer, of any kind, who summons the image ofnAkhmanatoua into his own poem or story. He may be right.nIn any case, there are Southern writers who have done justnthat.nEnough of the negative.nNot much is or can be said in these pages about thenSouthern novel. Let this much be said: that the novels beingnwritten by Southern novelists are lively and various; and thatnthe range and energy of these novelists, who have been busynand productive in large number since the beginning of thisncentury, show no sign at all of shrinking or diminishing. Ifnthe novel finally does fall over dead, it won’t be the fault ofnthe Southerners.nAnother point that needs to be made before I bow politelynand leave the stage to our excellent performers. Except fornsome talk of literary criticism, we do not here make much ofnthe very real and present contributions of Southern writersnin the fields lumped together as nonfiction. I am thinking ofnthe highly individual essays and articles of people like RoynReed, Roy Blount, Sam Pickering, James M. Cox, Pat C.nHoy, Tom Wolfe, and our own John Shelton Reed. And it isnin that field that we find, on the grandest scale, the greatestnsingle literary work attempted and achieved by any Americannauthor. The Civil War: A Narrative, by the Southernnnovelist Shelby Foote. The late Walker Percy called it “ournIliad.” In any case and in every detail, large and small, it is anmagnificent work of fact and art, worthy of all the tradihonnand variety of Southern letters that came before it and, likenthe overwhelming achievement of the lifework of WilliamnFaulkner, becoming an integral part of the tradition, and bynexample and by challenge, becoming an invitation to thenfuture. Foote said something of the same thing, himself, innhis “Bibliographical Note” to Volume II of The Civil War,nsaying that, among his many sources, “Mark Twain andnFaulkner would also have to be included, for they left theirnsign on all they touched, and in the course of thisnexploration of the American scene I often found that theynhad been there before me.” Foote joins them as one of thenfew who point the way. <^nnnMARCH 1991/15n