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A REGION NOT HOME by James Alan McPherson


Reflections from Exile

by James Alan McPherson

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-83464-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

From Pulitzer Prize—winning essayist and novelist McPherson (Crabcakes, 1998, etc.), fresh perspectives on such topics as the role of athletes, father-daughter relationships, and the writer Ralph Ellison. As he seamlessly mixes classical tags, literary analysis, and down-home stories about his family in these essays, some of which first appeared in The Atlantic and Esquire, McPherson is also writing about his life as a writer, a father, and an African-American. He explains his decision to move to Iowa City, where he now lives and teaches, by noting its distance from the racist South of his childhood and the Charlottesville setting of his bitter divorce, a place that still retains “a sense of obligation to something . . . not . . . required by the rule of law.— In —Disneyland,— the most personal essay, he explains why he and his young daughter paid so many visits to the Magic Kingdom. He hoped that in a place where “the established order of dependability soars up into fields of magic,” she would learn about those unexpected, magical interventions that transform the darkest moments in life. In other notable essays, he describes Ellison’s love for American democracy, a love he compares to Virgil’s piety; he contrasts the athletes in his small black college, race-bound Spartan hedgehogs knowing only one way to fight, with his own ambition to be an Athenian fox working against “the fate of a fixed purpose”; and he notes the growing clash between different ethical systems as immigrants and natives become neighbors. Only in —Junior and John Doe— does he falter because the arguments he marshals to support the proposition that blacks should reclaim the uniqueness they have lost in recent years are needlessly convoluted—a reminder how easy it is to take his polished prose for granted. A rich feast for the hungry mind.