from close relationships, from deeplynheld principles, from, in Reeves’ words,n”a moral center, a reference point thatnwent beyond self-aggrandizement.”nNo plaster saint was John F. Kennedy.nThe wonder maybe is that thennation fared no worse than it did undernhis stewardship. The Kennedy years,npresided over by a waif with the sexualnappetite of a goat, demonstrate inadvertentlynthe great tensile strength ofnthe Republic, and of the Americannpeople. We manage somehow to surviveneven our idols.nWilliam Murchison is a columnist fornthe Dallas Morning News.nHobson’s ChoicesnbyJ.O. TatenThe Southern Writer in thenPostmodern Worldnby Fred HobsonnAthens and London: The Universitynof Georgia Press; 120 pp., $17.95nThis slender volume — it embodiesnthe 33 rd of the Mercer UniversitynLamar Memorial Lectures — is mostnwelcome. The topic is a matter of broadninterest, and the author knows his stuff.nAs scholar and critic, professor andneditor, Fred Hobson is a respected authority,none to be alertly attended.nHe doesn’t let us down. He wants tonshow us where Southern fiction hasngone since the 1960’s — since the civilnrights revolution, integration, the passingnof the giants of the Southern Renascence,nthe bloat of fast money, cablentelevision, Jimmy Carter, and other improvementsnin the quality of life. Let’snsee: Faulkner died in 1962, FlannerynO’Connor in 1964, Allen Tate in 1979,nRobert Penn Warren and Walker Percynonly recently. Andrew Lytle^ andnEudora Welty survive, unique creators,nones who remind us that there was antime when Southern fictionists were thenbest in the country. That’s not been thencase for some while — a point that FrednHobson lets go while he concentratesnon the changes in fictional subject matternthat reflect social adjustments, andnon elements of continuity that can benidentified. If the South is more than an38/CHRONICLESngeographical expression, then it may stillnhave an identifiable literature.nSince a Coke-dimmed tide of popularnculture — TV, rock, movies — hasnengulfed the South with the rest of thenRepublic, there must be a fictionalnaccounting for the new environment.nHobson turns first to Bobbie Ann Mason’snIn Country and shows that thisnnovel, though seeming to be aboutnpeople without historical consciousness,nis in its way very much concernednwith history. He also shows that Masonnherself represents a step down in socialnclass from that of the best Southernnwriters of the past. Mason and othersnare a different class of Southerner, andnrepresent an extension of the franchisenof literature.nLee Smith’s Oral History receives ansophisticated treatment, one that showsnthe power of suggestion of that novelnwhich examines a clash of culturesnbetween the old and the new as well asnbetween Tidewater and mountain Virginia.nIn commenting on Barry Hannahn(a very different writer of a differentnSouth), Hobson calls him “perhapsnthe boldest, zaniest, and most outrageousnwriter of the contemporarynSouth.” He sees Hannah as continuingnthe traditions of Southwest Humor andnSouthern Gothic, as an heir of Faulknernand Wolfe, and as a meditator onnhistory. Hannah has extended thenworld of Walker Percy’s fiction—butnhe isn’t alone in that.nHobson classifies Richard Ford andnJosephine Humphreys as writers in thentradition of Walker Percy. In what Inthink are his most brilliant pages, Hobsonnshows how the restless Ford remainsna Southern writer in spite of hisnwanderings. His analysis of Ford’s ThenSportswriter decodes a series of puns,nanagrams, allusions, and “sly and nearlynhidden references,” “cunning andnslippery” evidence of the postmodernnnature of that novel and of its relationshipnto Percy’s The Moviegoer andnother Southern fiction. Hobson findsnJosephine Humphreys’ Dreams ofnSleep more straightforward to dealnwith, but no less valuable for that. Thennnengagements with history and withnpersonal authenticity show Dreams ofnSleep to be a novel about the conditionnof the South as revealed by that remarkablencity, Charleston.nThough Hobson finds continuity inncontemporary Southern fiction — thenhumor, rewrites (often female) ofnHuckleberry Finn — he also sees a returnnof an old problem: the trap ofnlocal color. Two who have evaded thatnsnare by finding a transcendence in thenparticular are, to him, Fred Chappellnand Ernest Gaines. I have myself saidnmuch the same thing about FrednChappell twice in print, and also aboutnErnest Gaines, at a panel discussion inn1984. Hobson uses A Gathering ofnOld Men to show Gaines as a literarynheir of Faulkner; I advanced the argu-‘nment that The Autobiography of MissnJane Pittman is an outstanding Southernnnovel because of the intensity of itsnhistorical consciousness. I guess thatnshows that great minds think alike.nBut not always. I wouldn’t call BarrynHannah “offensive,” nor would I evernuse such an absurd pseudo-constructionnas “homophobic.” Neither wouldnI bow so often (if at all) in the directionnof feminists, or take Alice Walker seriously.nHobson’s remarks on Walkernstrongly imply that she should not benconsidered a Southern writer, since hernidea of “community” is so completelynbefogged by obsessive ideology. Walkernof course raises the problem also ofnquality, of judgment and priorities, andnof political correctness as a literarynphenomenon, particularly in a volumenthat explicitly repudiates DonaldnDavidson’s politics while smoothly exploitingnhis insights.nProfessor Hobson’s casual referencento a Confederate cause that was “trulynlost . . . truly unworthy and doomed”ndismisses so much history, literature,nand legend, that to me it contradictsnthe idea, not to mention the fact, of andistinctive Southern culture or cultures.nNevertheless, I have enjoyednreading this monograph on contemporarynSouthern fiction, and have learnednfrom it. There can be no question thatnFred Hobson has sorted out sorne ofnthe phenomena of the present scene. Indon’t doubt that The Southern Writernin the Postmodern World will be frequentlynconsulted, and will influencenthe way Southern literature will benregarded, and even the way some mas-n