OPINIONSnPowder PufiFs & Loose Peanutsn”It is a bard task to treat what is common in a way ofnyour own.”n—HoracenJill McCorkle: The Cheer Leader;nAlgonquin Books; Chapel Hill, NC;nS15.95.nJill McCorkle: Julv 7th; AlgonquinnBooks; Chapel Hill, NC; S17.95.nLouis Rubin is easily the most respectednand celebrated scholar ofnmodern Southern literature, but it willnnever be said of him that he was antimid academic. The founding of annew publishing house, AlgonquinnBooks, in Chapel Hill, North Carolinan—a long way from New York Cityn—was an act of steely courage alloyednwith sheer brass.nHe’s a gambling man, Rubin, and,nas if to underscore this truth, henbrought out two first noels by thensame author at the same time. Didn’tnpublish one and wait to see how it wasnreceived. No letter went out saying,n”Sorry, Jill, but sales of The CheernLeader were not strong enough to warrantnpublication oi]uly 7th.” He rollednthem bones and came up flush. ThenMcCorkle books hae enjoyed bothncritical and commercial success.nIt’s more than luck, though. Rubinnhas a discerning eye for certain qualitiesnin Southern writing: freshness,nhumor, sharply drawn characters, authenticndetail and plenty of it, and a slyntoughness of obseration. His own fictionnexhibits these qualities, and henhas encouraged them in the studentsnin his creatie-writing classes. Amongnliterary partisans of the South, Rubinnhas got to be one of the least sentimen-nFred Chappell is a novelist andnco-winner of the 1985 BollingennPoetry Prize. His most recent book isnI Am One of You Forever (LSU).ne/CHRONICLES OF CULTUREntal in his tastes.nAnd that’s a good thing becausenRubin is now in a position to becomenone of the most influential shapers ofnthe destiny of Southern letters. Algonquinnbooks get good national distributionnto the shops and haul down re-niews in the important nationalnjournals. There has probably neernbeen another Southern trade publishingnhouse with such consistent adantage.nToo bad that Algonquin didn’tncome into existence a bit sooner; itnwould have been the ideal house fornwriters like William Goyen, Ee Shelnutt,nand Heather Ross Miller.nBut let us be thankful for what wenhave. The Cheer Leader and July 7thnwell deserve their success and celebrit’,nand surely nothing will detractnfrom these if we observe that bothnnovels fit comfortably into the newestntradition in Southern fiction, a traditionnthat might be described as beingnfetched out of Leota’s purse.nLeota, of course, is the garrulousnbeautician in Eudora Welty’s shortnstory “Petrified Man.” That storynopens with Leota asking her customer,nMrs. Fletcher, to get a cigarette out ofnLeota’s purse.nMrs. Fletcher gladly reachednover to the laender shelf undernthe laender-framed mirror,nshook a hair net loose from thenclasp of the patent-leather bag,nand slapped her hand downnquickly on a powder puff whichnburst out when the purse wasnopened.n’Why, look at the peanuts,nLeota!’ said Mrs. Fletcher innher marveling voice.n’Honey, them goobers nasnbeen in my purse a week ifnby Fred Chappellnnnthey’s been in it a day. Mrs.nPike bought them peanuts.’nIt’s all there, the pungent and fainflynrepugnant detail, the belligerent vulgarity,nthe relentiess concern w ith minutiae,nthe extremely close focus, thensincerely ugly tackiness. It is all expressive,ngies us a world of informationnabout lower-middle-class alues asnwell as about individual personalities,nand sets a raucous and slighfly irritatingncomic tone.nMiss Welty didn’t exacth invent thisnkind of writing, but she has done it sonwell that we find its influence w idespreadnin the current generation ofnfemale Southern writers. FlannervnO’Connor could do this sort of thing tonperfection, and so can Bobbie AnnnMason, Anne Tyler, Joan Williams,nLee Zacharias, Lee Smith, CandacenFlynt, and—Jill McCorkle.nHere, for a random example, is onlynpart of a paragraph from July 7th:nIt had gotten to where all ofnher days and nights were nearnabout the same—get up and gonto Hair Today Gone Tomorrownwhere she is the owner andnfully trained electrologist,nperform her time-consuming,ntedious professional skill, thenncome home and wait aroundnfor Harold, who very rarelynshowed up in time for dinner.nThen by the time that Harold,nJr. (who looks just like bignHarold except for the fact thatnhe’s a litfle jug-eared) wasnsound asleep with his littlenplastic E.T. doll watching oernhim from the night stand, andnPatricia was asleep with herntransistor radio blaring awaynbeneath her pillow, she wasnpooped out, too pooped tonsleep actually, and she’d sayn’loping through la la land w ithnJuanita Suggs Weeks.’n