Monday, June 8, 2009

Recent Reading: Peter Taylor's Novel 'In the Tennessee Country'

Short story writer and novelist Peter Taylor is not well known among the reading public these days. In fact, we'd guess that few, if any, American readers know his name or his work.

That's a shame, too, because Taylor is a master of his craft. Taylor, a Tennessee native who died in 1994, had a successful career as an English professor and fiction writer, winning awards for his stories and a Pulitzer Prize for his novel, A Summons to Memphis.

We just finished reading Taylor's last novel, In the Tennessee Country. It's a rather amazing piece of fictional imagination, something of a memory piece about the complexities of family life and the emotional thickets of such relationships.

Taylor tells his story in a genteel manner, with almost no dialogue and long-winded sentences that—despite this fact—manage to capture something of the South during the World War I era.

We try to keep abreast of literary styles and manners, and yet we have encountered few writers as mannered and seductive as Taylor.

Perhaps it's his evocation of a bygone time or his memorable Southern pols, aunts and cousins that make this novel so touching. But whatever it is, Taylor puts all down in a beautiful rendered prose that explains how ordinary lives used to be.

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