the University of Mississippi innFaulkner’s own town of Oxford. Morrisnhas returned to a transformed Mississippi,none that has more black elected officialsnthan any other state in the Union.nHe applauds this progress, but he continuesnhis obsession with the old Mississippi.nHow fortunate Morris must considernFaulkner to have been: all that guiltnand violence and racism over which tonanguish. Poor Morris: he must strollnacross an integrated campus and watchnan all-black basketball team in action.nTimes have changed, but race remainsnthe only subject worth discussing; as henwrote while living in Washington, D.C.,nin 1976:nFrom my reading of our history, Inhave always believed the centralnthread that runs through us as a peoplenis the relationship between thenwhite man and the black man innAmerica. Perhaps it takes a Southernernto know in his heart the extent tonwhich we in the cities, and especiallynin this one, are paying the terriblenprice of slavery.nWashingtonians of whatever color canntake consolation from those words thennext time they are mugged by a black; innthe meantime, Willie Morris will chantnFaulknerian dirges to the sin-cursednhomeland he carries in his head.nJxeynolds Price is Morris’s coeval and,nalthough he grew up in eastern NorthnCarolina, his South bears a striking resemblancento Morris’s. His novels, beginningnwith A Long and Happy Life inn1962, work the familiar soil of an oldernSouthern literature: convoluted familynrelationships, the rituals of small-townnlife, the tics to the land, the interplaynbetween the races. But Price is no Faulkneriannepigone: he refuses to allow thensins and follies of his ancestors to oppressnhim. He does not dwell on the burdensnof history, nor does he believe that thenmanifold repercussions of racism formnthe sole preoccupation of white Southerners.nEspecially in Surface of Earthn(1975) Price displays a talent for reveal­ning the fullness and social density of people’snlives without using race and guilt asnspikes on which to impale his characters.nIn his ability to evince the quotidian richnessnof life Price belongs to the traditionnof the 19th-century European novel. Henknows how to weave the intersecting livesnof his characters across time and place toncreate a compelling story. Surface ofnEarth is no Anna Karenina, but it comesncloser to that masterpiece than does thenthin gruel served up by most of Price’sncontemporaries.nIn The Source of Light Price returns tonthe Mayfields of Surface of Earth. Thenfirst novel spanned nearly a half-centurynof family history; this one carves out onenyear in the life of Hutchins Mayfieldnwho, when the story opens in May ofn1955, is twenty-five years old. Like mostnmales of his age—even in the North Carolinanof the mid-50’s—Hutch does notnmope about, agonizing over racial oppressionnor the bloodstained and violentnhistory of the South; love and sex, hisndesire to write, the scary possibilities ofnthe future, his relationship to his familynoccupy his thoughts. This is no latter-daynQuentin Compson as Morris might portraynhim; Hutch’s pain and confusionnarise from something far more universalnthan the vicissitudes of Southern history:nI never felt cursed or burdened by,nyou know, all the layers of Mayfieldsnand Kendals and Hutchins piled onnme. What I have felt is full, crowdedneven. I’m the place where a good dealnof time comes to bear, and severalnnnlives—the only place on earth . . . Mynpeople abandoned so much on myndoorstep—or had it snatched fromnthem, and set down here. There’s nonone left to use it at all, consume it,nconvert it, redeem back all my peoplenpawned away—their generousnstarved hearts.nReynolds Price, like Willie Morris,ngrew up in the last years of the South thatndrove Faulkner to pour his love and rageninto the saga of Yoknapatawpha County.nPrice sensed, though, that a novelistnin the post-World War II South needednto do more than to rework the old themesnin the old ways. The South remained thenprovince of his fiction—for the South isnwhat he knows most thoroughly—but henleft the Faulknerian anguish to the mannwho did it best—Faulkner himself. Withnthe exception of Walker Percy, anothernnovelist who struck off in his own direction,nReynolds Price is the most effectivennovelist writing in the South today.nX rice’s fellow North Carolinian, LeenSmith, has her own problems, but, innthis case, they do not involve Faulkner.nThe South boasts five of the leadingnwomen writers of 20th-century Americanin Katherine Anne Porter, Caroline Gordon,nCarson McCullers, FlannerynO’Connor and Eudora Welty. Smithnseems to have taken her inspiration fromnthe last three, especially from Miss Welty.nCakewalk collects Smith’s stories ofnthe 1970’s, stories that explore the mundanenrealities of urban, small-town andni29nOctober 1982n