distance until the person being visited has time to prepare.nYou don’t go right up and ring the doorbell, as it were.nSouthern courtesy involves much the same honoring ofnprivacy and individuality.nVladimir Nabokov said of his fictions that it wasn’t thenparts that mattered, it was their combination. The samenthing is true of the qualities I’m speaking of in FrednChappell’s work. Gentle slyness, reserve, attention, allnmatter inestimably, but it is their combination that, shall wensay, reveals the soul. In Chappell’s fiction especially this canntake fantastic, fabulous turns, sometimes satirical, as ifnhaunted at once by the ghosts of Mark Twain and H.P.nLovecraft.nBy way of the negative here, I might say that somenqualities often highlighted positively in reviews of fictionnthat don’t apply to Southern work might give my perspectivensome relief: zany, brash, fast-moving, or abrasive. Southernnhumor, in fact, doesn’t always make you laugh — though itnoften does. Its aim is more to comfort. It’s an embeddednattitude, a perspective from which life is lived, and it is innthat dimension that the word humor slides toward comic,nthe kind of writer I’ve suggested Fred Chappell has chosen tonHarry and Lydie were enduring their third ancestor andnfinding it a rum go. Not that they were surprised —nthe first two ancestors had also proved to be enervatingnspecimens — and now they regretted the hour they hadnjoined the Ancestor Program of the Living History Series.nSitting at dinner, fed up with Wade Wordmore, Harryndecided to return this curious creature to his congressman,nDoy Collingwood, at his local office over in Raleigh, NorthnCarolina.nFred Chappell, a prolific poet and novelist, is the authornmost recently of The World Between the Eyes (LSU).nDabney Stuart is a poet and the editor o/” Shenandoah.nHe lives in Lexington, Virginia.nAncestorsnby Fred Chappellnbecome. I mean this term, of course, in the old sense of itsnopposition to tragic.nChappell’s vision has shifted from the hermetic, sweaty,nforeboding darkness of his first novels, to a hopeful, expansivenopening toward light. Midquest is the fulcrum in thisnchange. That tetralogy’s use of the structures, assumptions,nand even a section of Dante’s Divine Comedy, is the bestnindication of Chappell’s new direction. Midquest closes withnthese lines:nThe love that moves itself in light to lovingnFlames up like dewnHere in the earliest morning of the world.nOut of context they lose the enormously complex and variedntapestry that precedes them, and through which Chappellnearns the right to say them, But they are central to thenessentially comic vision that informs his work since the laten70’s. Acceptance and affirmation are the keys, seen into andnthrough in this world of violence and loss and deprivation. Ifnyou want a star, here’s one.n— Dabney StuartnThey were goaded into joining the program by that mostndestructive of all human urges: the desire for self-improvement.nWhen, as part of the celebration of the one hundrednfiftieth anniversary of the Civil War, the U.S. Archives andnHistory Division called Harry Beacham and told him thatnthe records showed he had no less than three ancestralnrelatives who had fought in the great conflict and asked ifnhe’d be interested in meeting these personages, he repliednthat Yes, of course, he would love to meet them.nWhat Southerner wouldn’t say that?nIt is also in the Southern manner to take the marvels ofnmodern technology for granted. The crisp impersonalnfemale voice in the telephone receiver explained that fromnthe merest microscopic section of bone computers couldnnnMARCH 1991/17n