IDOLS & AXLE GREASE by Francis Irby Gwaltney


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Southern writers share an uncanny ability to make growing up in hicksville in the depths of the Depression sound like the closest earthly approximation to the great beyond. In this case heaven is Charleston, Arkansas, population 853 (courtesy 1930 census) -- two of whose citizens managed to acquire posthumous Medals of Honor in WW II. In any case, everybody from town whore to deformed schoolteacher to Civil War colonel to aristocratic spinster to hell-raising preacher, also motley gas station attendants, congenital liars, and intermittent drunkards is present and accounted for. Apparently they did right well by the protagonist, who would otherwise have had nobody but his crazy mother (just to prove this is Faulkner country) to look after him, and to return the favor in this fictionalized reminiscence the author does right well by them, too. One can easily forgive the sentimentality, for it is inherent in the genre, if not in fact in the social dynamics of these small towns -- microcosms of the world but presumably endowed, at least for a time, with special grace.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1974
Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill