together in the larger role which he plays among us today.nFor Mr. Lytle has become (and was on his way to beingnsince he first began to write) one of the memory keepers, anrepository of the shape and feel of life in this country beforenit ceased to think of itself as part of the Christian West.nIndeed, he remembers even more than he ever knew. Fornabout the form and texture of a world he experienced asnonly a lingering shadow or “ghostly presence,” Lytlenlearned (especially through stories) enough to imagine, tonreconstruct, what he could not have seen. He came to thisnrole naturally because he had, in a Southern context,nknown his own predecessors. Of them he wrote that “At anfamily gathering, when people were not working butncelebrating, there would always be one voice more capablenthan another of dominating the conversation. It was a kindnof bardic voice.” Lytic has made fictional use of this gift andnknows its value when he comes toward us direetiy. Thenby-gone commonwealth which he represents lives also innthe hearts of the rest of us who continue by choice to be itsncitizens and is made available to the performance of ournpiety through the acts of the memory keeper, the agency ofnhis narratives as they preserve and reaffirm a truth not easilynrendered in discursive terms. In this connection I thinknimmediately of Lytle’s matchless biography of the TennesseenAchilles, General Nathan Bedford Forrest, and of hisnessay on the same mighty warrior, “The Hero and thenDoctrinaires of Defeat”; of his recent Reflections of a Ghost,nand the extraordinary family chronicle, A Wake for thenLiving. In these works we hear the accent of the vates, whonutters for us the formula of our inheritance.nThe thematic focus of much of Mr. Lytie’s work has beennupon the history of European man in this hemisphere, andnespecially upon his dream of a heaven on earth, annEldorado, of the kind that has often inspired his adventuresnin “westering.” It is a recognizable subdivision of the largernsubject of modernity and its costs: the great matter of hownwe might escape contingency and the consequences of thenFall, of the idea of a “new man” who can, through will,ningenuity, or mere relocation build on this side of Jordannsome continuing city. According to Oswald Spengler, all ofnthese dreams of a terrestrial beatitude have their collectivenrepresentation and proper symbol in the old magician. Dr.nFaust. Mr. Lytic tends to agree with that part of Spengler’snanalysis of what has happened to Christendom since thenRenaissance. And he includes the artist as among Faustiannfigures—that is, if he refuses to submit his imagination tonhis subject until “seized” by “the form, the artifice” hiddennthere. Yet as artist and thinker, maker and commentator,nLytle has always known better than to set store by disembodiedntruth. Therefore his focus has been upon specificnversions of the alchemical prototype caught up in Faustiannflight from human limitations and the responsibilitiesnwhich go with them: in either individualism or collectivism,nworship of self or of state—both rejections of the oldnview which maintains that each man has his place or gift ofnwhich he is steward because (or if) he loves.nLytie’s literary and cultural criticism, much of it gatherednin The Hero With the Private Parts, is clearly the reverse sidenof what he has done as one of the masters of the craft ofnfiction. Of the former he writes that “reading is one way tonlearn to write.” He has aspired to a total reading of thosen’n^yMmn^^un’vd^FknMBI^H^Hn. jJ^E^^^Bin’y’^B^kn•-^fflfn’ WVJwMlifcSfcn’•’^’^^SSknf tf!n”i^in^n^rn1nV ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ Xn”^^^^aHBn^^n^^^^^^tetOSBnF jjfc^ C^^^^ ,^p ‘n”w^ 4 ‘- 4nS ^ ^) AnMmm^^ /n <n^Km’tnWmr’n1n ‘”n'””AM-^nfictions which most interest him, and in dealing with Ford,nCrane, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Joyce, and (especially) Flaubert,nhe has achieved his goal. He has also written memorablynabout the creative process itself, of being “merely anninstrument”; and about the “network of conventions insidenof which men and women perform the perennial actionsnsummarized in our inheritance of myth.” Lytic has remindednus that Promethean man, on his way to Babylon, cannotnbe the artist because he understands the world as an objectnto be controlled. In contrast, mythopoeie man looks at it innwonder and, in reporting a reaction, leaves it to others tonmake propaganda and convert insight into marching orders.nThe best fiction, he persuades us, engenders in its audiencensomething like that sense of wonder. In much of it thenaction rendered belongs to a specific context of culture andnhistory—“manners and customs, codes, public and privatendisciplines”—and concerns of “people within the constraintnof some inherited social agreement.” Andrew Lyticndoes not write or praise a literature of Platonic abstractions,nwhich is perhaps why we should value in particular Lytlenthe narrator, the raconteur, the teller of tales—the one whonremembers that we live only in all of the particulars of ourncondition, not in some anterior general state, separate fromnits incarnate complexity.nThe antitype of the memory keeper is the artist ornintellectual as alienated man: the figure we know best innmodern literature through James Joyce’s Stephen Daedalus,nthe hero of his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. YoungnStephen, putting behind family, homeland, and church,nprays to the Daedalus of myth, “Old Father, old artificer,nstand me now and ever in good stead.” But the memorynkeeper requires no such transport. He uses his gift piously,nwithout converting his craft into a substitute religion. Outnof a sacramental view of the creation and an honest realismnabout the creature, he makes his witness within an inheritednculture, not an imaginary republic of letters, and if he doesnso well as Andrew Lytic, deserves the laurel which has beenngiven with this award to him.nnnJUNE 1987/15n