The South/books: Yoknapatawpha Blues

Long after the rest of the country was losing them, the South still possessed those things that are often thought essential to great literary art: a hot sense of pride and guilt, a feel for land and family, a known way of doing things and, above all, a feeling of shared pain and history. Through the slow days and long nights, Southerners told stories —their own and the one everybody knew by heart: the brave defeat in defense of an ignoble cause.

But if great art was possible—even likely—from such material, not much in...

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