I hope you’ll be able to tune your radio in or listen online for what is sure to be an insightful program.
My guest this month is University of Georgia English professor James Everett Kibler (pictured left) who’ll join me to talk and take listener calls about his latest novel, Memory’s Keep, the second of his Clay Bank County trilogy (see my August 8 blog entry).
I’ve been out of state since last Monday and haven’t been able to post anything to this blog until today. I’ll be back in Georgia Sunday in time for Cover to Cover, and will be able to resume regular posts at that point. Forgive me in the meantime!
A few words about Memory’s Keep ahead of Sunday’s show: Southern critic James Cantrell, author of How Celtic Culture Invented Southern Literature, says of James Kibler,
He stands with Wendell Berry as an inheritor of Caroline Gordon’s mantle for pre-eminent Agrarian novelists. Like Berry, Kibler explores the relationships among life on the land, family strength, individual sense of self-worth and self-restraint, sense of community predicated upon place and history rather than cash nexus, the inextricable ties of past-present-future, and the incessant narcotic tug of American materialism.It is the primacy of the relationship between man, a spiritual being, and the land that lies at the heart of the writings of the literary group known as the Southern Agrarians. They flourished in the early 1930s with the publication of a collection of essays entitled I'll Take My Stand, which became the de facto Agrarian manifesto.
Associated with Vanderbilt University, the Agrarians developed out of a group known as “The Fugitives,” or the “Fugitive Poets,” whose number included John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Donald Davidson, Randall Jarrell, and Robert Penn Warren.
Setting themselves against modernism and the growing industrialization of Southern life, these writers advocated a return to the earlier ideals of an agriculturally based existence where that closeness to the land fed men’s souls. Inherent in what the Agrarians believed was a profound distrust of the “instant gratification” complex that was one of the by-products of an ever-increasing capitalism, and of what Cantrell terms “the incessant narcotic tug of American materialism.”
Such a conservative view of society inevitably looks back to an earlier time of relative idyllicism, but there is also the realization that the past cannot be separated from the present or the future. Tradition, that wonderful Southern shibboleth, only remains so to the extent it informs the future.
Kibler talks about the meaning of his novel’s title, and the significance of memory, in his Preface to Memory’s Keep:
Like the keep of a castle, the memory is the most interior and sacred of places, the inviolate, unassailable centre that best protects our humanity and says who we are. Scientists don’t like memory very much. It’s the province of art, and, in an age when science has come to dominate, it must be defended above all. Momentary man, living for the gratification of the now, doesn’t care much for memories. He finds them instead a threat, an inconvenience, and a hindrance besides—something inefficient and impractical, and best to be rid of. The folks of the Clay Bank County series, whatever their shortcomings, are not momentary women and men. Provincials of place, they might certainly be, but never provincials of time. They do not inhabit aJoin James Kibler and myself Sunday evening at 8 for look at that mystical bond that has always tied the true Southerner to the land. As the great contemporary Southern author Fred Chappell says about Memory’s Keep,
Anyone who likes the smell of newly turned April dirt, of green fields simmering in summer heat, of freshly planed walnut, will love every page of this fondly authored book.Even if you have no idea of what these smells are, you can still listen to the show on Sunday, and call the toll-free number to be part of the live discussion (1-866 RADIO GA or 1-866-723-4642). The first five callers with questions or comments for James Kibler will receive a signed copy of Memory’s Keep.
I hope you can join us.