far removed from the convulsions of Europe and Asia. Before the father is drafted and feels the effects of military service personally, the book establishes a fine sense of the family’s inner dynamic. It is the father who dominates the book. Loving but capable of harshness too, even of cruelty, he is a kind of god to the young boy. The narrative obliquely outlines the pressures that prey upon the father, driving him to take out his frustrations upon his wife, his children. Cheated by his older step-brothers, he has at best a tenuous hold upon the farm he loves; he is in fact a sharecropper on land that by rights should be his. Economic difficulties as well as hungers of the flesh cause him to be less than loving, less than faithful. But the narrative doesn’t create sentimental excuses for the father’s behavior; it simply dramatizes his actions. He is no beloved patriarchal figure, nor a romanticized man of the soil and stream such as appears in George Sessions. Perry’s sharecropping novel, Hold Autumn In Your Hand. Though less harsh, Some Sweet Day reminds me a bit of Hart Stilwell’s Uncovered Wagons \(another dark, disturbing half-novel, halfautobiography of a father who’s vain, tough, unfair, driven, and altogether believable. The father in Some . Sweet Day has a lesson to bequeath to his son. It’s that life is hard, that sometimes events take control whether you like it or not, and that about all you can do is brace up. When the government drafts the father, it’s not fair.He has three children and a wife with another child on the way. Single men, younger, aren’t drafted. Here’s what he tells the boy: “Maybe things ain’t been too good on this place with your old man around, but you’re about to learn that they can be a damn sight worse without him. And another thing. You’re about to learn that a man can even get along without his dog, if he has to.” Without ever leaving the U.S., the father gets wounded, badly. It leaves him crippled. What happens when he returns to his family is a domestic tragedy of the first order. The novel ends with a coda in an entirely different style from the rest of the book. In one page we get a public prose version a newspaper obituary that tells us of the father’s second life, the one that began with the end of the narrator’s story. It’s a marvelous ending to a poignant story. I=1 Don Graham is Associate Professor of English at UT-Austin. TERRAINS OF THE HEART AND OTHER ESSAYS ON HOME By Willie Morris Yoknapatapha Press By Craig Edward Clifford Annapolis, Maryland Recently I borrowed a copy of Willie Morris’s 1967 North Toward Home in order to read the section about his tenure at The Texas Observer I ended up reading the whole book. It was published in the year that Morris became the youngest editor in the history of Harper’s. At the end of the book he returns to New York City after a visit to Texas and Mississippi with the realization that you don’t have to go back to your sources to survive since your past is inside of you. I knew that he had resigned from Harper’s in 1971 and that he had lived on Long Island after that, but I didn’t know where he was in 1981. As I read the conclusion some 14 years after the book was published, I commented to my wife that I would bet my cowboy boots Willie Morris is back in Mississippi by now. Since the longing to be back on my native soil in Texas has reached an unbearable crescendo over the eight years I’ve been away, I tend to think I have a good ear for this kind of chord. Well, Willie Morris is back in Mississippi, and Terrains of the Heart and Other Essays on Home is a testament to the power of native soil and communal memory, or at least to Southern soil and memory. To be sure, the writer is never simply an inhabitant, but, as Morris says, always something of a stranger “he must absorb without being absorbed.” But this book is evidence enough that Willie Morris has always belonged to Mississippi more than it belonged to him. Any writer worth his salt always belongs to something greater than himself otherwise, he wouldn’t have anything to say. Terrains of the Heart is a collection of pieces spanning the years from 1961 to 1981, beginning and ending with recent essays “Coming on Back” and “The Ghosts of Ole Miss” in which Morris reflects upon the long arc of experience represented more or less in chronological fashion by the essays in between. The arc leads from Yazoo, Mississippi through Austin, Texas, Oxford University in England, New York City, Washington, D.C. and. Bridgehampton on Long Island back to the deep green delta of his childhood and birth. It is a journey Odyssean in scope and Homeric in meaning. Tennyson thought that Odysseus couldn’t wait to be on the road again after his return to Ithaca, and the modern Greek poet Cavafy wants us to believe that the journey is the real fun and games, not the return. But the journey away from home, whether physical or spiritual, is never fun and games: it is a painful rite of passage, fraught with temptations and frightful abysses, and haunted by the ghosts of one’s past. Still, one has the definite sense that the Willie Morris who returns in 1980 to teach at Old Miss comes back home with a deeper insight into the forces that made him what he is. Whereas the man who visits Yazoo in 1970 is afraid that he’ll be shot down in the streets for what he wrote in North Toward Home, the man who returns in 1980 knows that he has a place among the best of his people. The suffering of his separation was not just pain, but pathos, suffering in the sense of a deepening experience, a deepening sense of those things which really matter. Above all, this pathos is the pathos of memory. To paraphrase his remarks to the youth of Mississippi in “The Americanization of Mississippi,” he learns to remember who he is: not just to remember who he was, or who his ancestors were, but through his past to know what he can and cannot be, and thus who he is. “The most terrible burden of the writer . . .,” he says, “. . . is the burden of memory.” By dwelling in memory the writer does not live in the past, in the painless escape of nostalgia; he suffers through the truth of himself and his people and his place. The spectrum of guilt and pain, joy and exhilaration, failure and meanness, serenity and humor, which Willie Morris dredges up out of his vagabond past and the mud of Mississippi is a spectrum of human possibility, not simply a report on what has been. On the one hand, death is pervasive: the death of Mamie, his grandmother; the deaths of his mother and father; the death of James Jones, his closest friend during the waning years of his exile. “Weep No More My Lady,” a short piece concerning the death of his grandmother, is one of the most powerful essays in the book. I can’t imagine anyone reading through the final paragraphs of that essay without putting the book face down and sitting for a long moment of deep silence before going on to the next piece: Yet people stayed, as if riveted to that place and time; they moved a distance from the grave to talk. I saw my son with the undertaker, watching the coffin slowly descend into the ground. In the crowd a tall, angular man I did not know, a local man, caught me by the arm. “By God, you’re Ray.” Not Ray, I THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25
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