As the rest of the country writes its outre way into experimental vapidity, the Southerners continue to shame us with their fine passionate novels about rednecks and blacks and the wonderful dying towns that are America's answer to Devonshire and Somerset -- almost. Beau Jim Early, just out from six years of too much Army, finds that conquering the world or at least his part of it vis-a-vis Senneca College ain't going to be so easy: not that he doesn't like learning that ontogeny recapitulates phylogony (in fact his enthusiasm embarrasses his teachers) but he feels out of place with the young co-eds; instead he hangs around with his closet queen roommate Claire, hustling pool, guzzling beer, and making love to an old high school acquaintance who provides the comforts of mother -- the mother that Jim never had. Meanwhile his brother Dan, trying to eke out a living on his beloved dirt farm, goes crazier and crazier, what with his kid going to a newly integrated school, failing wells, double mortgages, finally shooting seven niggers in a coup de grace revenge for the burning of his barn -- a fire actually started by his not-so-stable wife. Despite the somewhat lurid plot, this is a forceful, unmelodramatic novel about disintegration -- mental and physical and moral -- that can only be overcome by love -- on a larger scale by the joining together of the South's ever-warring black and white selves. It is a book that will be written again and again, sometimes better, usually worse, until we finally hear its message and can get ourselves (and our writers) on to other things.