THE REDNECK WAY OF KNOWLEDGE: DownHome Tales by Blanche McCrary Boyd


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Thin autobiographical jottings by a young Carolina-born novelist (Mourning the Death of Magic)--many of them addressing the familiar clash between a narrow hicksville past and a hip New York present (cf., most recently, Lisa Alther's disappointing Original Sins). ""My family sent a thin filament far into my psyche, like the webbed roots of grass spreading under a sidewalk."" So, at 33, after early bad marriage in California and assorted lesbian affairs, McCrary goes home to Charleston ""to try to reclaim my background. . . to seek a funkier transcendence""--though she's ""afraid that the critical faculties I worked so hard to develop while I was in New York will turn blue and fall off."" She goes to the Rebel 500 stock-car race, gets drunk, records redneck malapropisms. She goes to the Spoleto arts festival with a couple of wild Charleston aristocrats, gets drunk, discovers that ""I love the intimacy and seriousness of chamber music."" She goes to the Tough Man Contest (amateur ""Rockys"" on paradc), is appalled (""'This is like a group psychosis,' I said""), smokes a joint. Back in N.Y., she sees John Paul II at Yankee Stadium; shares some banal musings on Catholicism; watches Jesus of Nazareth on TV; decides--with references to her own love life--that ""falling in love is the only religious experience my generation legitimizes""; and recalls her childhood racism (""Perhaps I merely breathed these lessons in the American air""), with updates on her attempts to overcome this background. And, in the somewhat more secure role of a reporter, Boyd interviews Communist Workers Party members after the 1979 Greensboro riot (""ruthless and selfless as a religious sect""), then catches up with them at the 1980 Democratic Convention: ""Isn't the fact twenty-one policemen were injured in a confrontation with American Communists. . . news? Is it innocent to ask what's going on?"" Occasionally amusing, sometimes pretentious, generally flat or smug--and previously published in the Village Voice.

Pub Date: May 26th, 1982
Publisher: Knopf