THE KINGDOM WITHIN: A Spiritual Autobiography by Jesse Stuart

THE KINGDOM WITHIN: A Spiritual Autobiography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Country camp, somewhere between Spoon River Anthology and a gala at the Grand Ole Opry, as a philosophic bard from Eastern Kentucky fatuously reviews his life. Stuart has lived most of his 71 years on a farm in W-Hollow in Greenup (pop. 1284), and written some 40 books, including poetry and children's stories, about the folks from this blooming nook of Appalachia. (Readers unfamiliar with Stuart may take this for his first book, so awkward and unidiomatic is the writing. ""For Powderjays,"" he says at one point, ""cleanliness was akin to Godliness. The cleanliness of bodies and clothes had to be."") Stuart casts himself as Shall Powderjay, a barrel-chested, two-fisted, lion-hearted son of the earth (and prolific author) who has just had his sixth massive coronary. As he lies near death in Intensive Care he has a hallucination about going to his own funeral. This is a festive, almost blissful affair, with thousands of people attending--not his neighbors, who mostly hate his guts for putting them in his bucolic romans clef, but his ""head-born children,"" the fictional characters he's brought into the world. After a long, narcissistic reverie--as Powderjay lovingly pats his creations on the head--he returns to consciousness, recuperates against all odds, and drives back with his wife to his thousand-acre spread. He has found his kingdom within, i.e., his life is justified, not by religion (Powderjay is a tepid Christian at best), but by the variety and splendor of his literary progeny. Fitfully entertaining, sometimes unintentionally funny, and unremittingly foolish.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1979
Publisher: McGraw-Hill