Books: Ten-Gallon Gothic

PROUD FLESH

by WILLIAM HUMPHREY

330 pages. Knopf. $6.95.

In his first novel since The Ordways, William Humphrey has remained true to the once effective formula for the Southern novel—using the Southern family to melodramatize the passing of a way of life through the death of the elder. Only in this instance it is not a dying patriarch, but matriarch—not a Big Daddy but a Big Mommy.

Setting his one-long-deathbed scene in Texas, Humphrey has made all the proportions of his tragedy bigger than life, almost to the point of Texas self-parody. As the mother...

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