more complex, multilayered and disturbing “Kettle ofnHawks.” This same admirable and dangerous stubbornnessncan be found in any story from Mary Hood’s two collections.nAnd Venus Is Blue and How Far She Went; indeed,nthere’s something almost atavistic in her stories, heardnsometimes as a spooky echo of the voice of FlannerynO’Connor.nThere are ironies, too, that lie close to the surface of thisnrenewed regionalism. The funny thing is that anyonencan do it now, or anyone can try. Mary Hood, whose work isnso unmistakably Southern, makes a point of mentioningnshe’s half from the north: “I am like Laurie Lee’s fabulousntwo-headed sheep, which could ‘sing harmoniously in andouble voice and cross-question itself for hours.'” NativenNew Jerseyite Alan Cheuse shows what handy turns he canndo on the Southern theme in his new collection, ThenTennessee Waltz. Moving in the opposite direction, KellynCherry shows in her recent “novel-in-stories” (My Life andnDoctor ]oyce Brothers) what ordinary Middle Americannangst feels like when a transplanted Southern womannexperiences it. The incomparably powerful novelist PercivalnEverett, still underrecognized perhaps because people arenafraid of him, has in The Weather and the Women Treat MenFair put his own stamp on the Southern short story on thenmove into the American Northwest, or wherever. Thennthere are new kinds of stories in the works based on new andnextraordinary circumstances of Southern living — like RobertnOlin Butler’s story cycle about the Vietnamese communitiesnof Louisiana.nGenerally speaking, a certain sort of story of rural ornsmall-town life is no longer exclusively Southern, if it evernwas. That Southerners still know how to make this story newnis excellently proved by, among others, Pinckney Benedict’snjustly celebrated volume. Town Smokes. But some of thenthemes once claimed as traditionally Southern have beennreclaimed in recent work by Carolyn Chute and RobertnOlmstead. And by John Dufresne, whose first collection.nThe Way That Water Enters Stone, is in spite of thenunfortunate title one of the finest of the year. Dufresne,nwherever he is from, can do Southern and New Englandnvoices with equal conviction. It becomes less place thannissue that matters, and all over the new regional storywritingnappear the survivors who have washed up into backwaters ofnthe cultural mainstream that would smother them with itsnbland indifference. They have their common characteristics,nSouthern or not: an anger, a stubbornness, an indomitablenindividualism, and (how one comes back to it) a tragicallyngorgeous weakness for the sin of pride. As one of AlysonnHagy’s characters puts it, “even the smallest streams willnhave their say.”nOne of the truisms of Southern literature is that its powerncomes from a radical sense of displacement — the state ofnbeing in the nation, but not of it. Because they are notnshareholders in the American dream, this argument goes.nSouthern writers are better able to distinguish the ideal fromnthe reality — a situaHon that has always been shared (uneasily)nby American black and Jewish writers. If the lines ofnregional and ethnic writing are less clearly drawn thannpreviously, the reason may be that American political life isnnow able to offer a strong dose of disillusionment, disenfranchisementneven, to all Americans. It’s funny, in a bitter way,nhow what is so bad for a nation can often be so good for itsnart.
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