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July 24, 1976 - Image 6

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Michigan Daily, 1976-07-24

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Page Six


Saturday, July 24, 1976

Paae Six THE MICHIGAN DAILY Saturday, July 24, 1976

Dixie whistles the 'New

Cholson-'My forefathers were here'

1HRTE IS A NEW Reconstruction oc-
curing in the South, more pervasive
than the one of the last century, It is
a reconstriction of the social attitudes
within the existing hierarchy, and it is
being brought about by a new economic
prosperity that sweeps from Richmond
to Houston.
Nowhere is this more apparent to the
visitor than in the "Deep South" - places
like Mississippi and western Tennessee,
where low tax rates and the warm cli-
mate have attracted a phenomenal amount
of new industry - industry most southern
communities have welcomed with open
arms, despite the threat it poses to their
tradition-laden world. There, young people
have brought back to their hometowns a
new tolerance for diversity, gained in col-
lege and the cities where they have worked.
Yet travelling from Memphis, south along
the fertile valley of the Mississippi River
where cotton is still king, one senses that
if Margaret Mitchell could visit today, she
would still meet many characters that
would have felt comfortable in her book,
Gone With the Wind. There are plenty of
Scarletts here and the Rhetts are just as
numerous. Black share-cropper farmstand
stately old antelbellum plantation homes
remain, haunting the countryside with
spirits of another age. Their residents are
often publicity shy. Many don't want to
talk to reporters, and brush one off -
though more politely than their northern
The locals call it the Delta region-an
stately old ante-bellum plantation homes
are which they say includes much more
than New Orleans and its environs. Ac-
cording to legend and lore, the Delta
stretches from the lobby of the Peabody
Hotel in Memphis, ((an old hotel that
catered to the rich planters when they
came to town on business), to Vicksburg,
try's "Ode to Billy Joe," and its movie
adaptation. The film crews had only been
gone for several months when I went
through there this summer; but the older
folks, sitting out on their front porches in
the hot muggy weather, still boasted about
their bit parts in the movie. For many of
them, who had never been to a city lar-
ger than Clarksdale or Greenwood, "Ode
to Billy Joe" was the biggest thing to hit
their small world in years.
And though proud, they were content

with that brief stardom the movie
But to the younger people, in the s
towns and budding cities that dot he
neither "Ode to Billy Joe" nor the
style it describes is enough to su:ify
longing for a wider world. And anon1
seems a small price to pay for the
ises of prosperity and excitement ti
crowded metropolis holds out to bet
'Those who go to college find
to come back to their h;rnemts
school breaks for the summer.
ones who stay at homne to k
- someplace, anyptace where ti
" WOULD RATHER move aw:y
the people here aren't a;y l
plained one young woman in 'they
life in her Mississippi hometowsit,
don't go out at night. They iest dleet
to do anything."
Some of those who move away
after a while, disillusioned by the
lems of city life.
But their sojourn into the city
an indelible stamp on them, they
back home a new insight into the
lems of their small communities.
Henry Fort Gholson Jr. and his
Debbie, are young professionals who
up in a small country town-Holly Sp
Mississippi, about sixty miles from
phis. Fort's family has raised its offs
there for five generations now, bu
years ago he and his wife decided
would move to Memphis because they
tired of the insular atmosphere of
FOR DEBBIE it 'was easier - her I
has been in town for quite a

Sullivan-We just ignore them'

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MERIDIAN, a novel by Alice Walker. Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, New York and London. 228 pp.,
HERE NEVER was a novel before, I'm sure, that was so
obviously a product of the crossbreeding of several trends as
Meridian. What is unusual is that this novel, a cross between black
literature, "emerging woman" literature, "emerging black wo-
man" literature, and plain ol' stream-of-consciousness, clearly
benefits from its legacy in every respect.
Meridian is not a great novel. It is, however, a fine attempt
at a story that raises some frightening and ultimately disquieting
questions. First, what annoyed me: the book's plot and its main
character, Meridian Hill, were plainly stamped from a mold, the
same mold used extensively by Sue Kaufman, Erica Jong, Lisa
Alther (in her recent Kinflicks), and to a small extent, Gayl Jones
(of Corregidora and Eva's Man fame).

The annoyance becomes intense when you realize just what
author Alice Walker has taken from each: Lynne Rabinowitz,
Walker's prototypical white liberal Jewish girl, comes straight
from Kaufman; the monstrous, frigid mother could come from
Jong's Fear of Flying (a trashy book because of its reliance on
types) or Alther's poignant Kinflicks; and Meridian herself might
have emerged from the pages of Corregidora.
But that last has got to be wrong, for the same reason that
makes this such an affecting book, the same reason that makes
Jones' Corregidora such a brilliant work, and the reason that
Meridian makes it as fiction.
IT IS WRONG to say that Meridian is Walker's Ursa Corregidora
-what is proper to say is that both women stem from the same
source. And the reason is the experience of black womanhood
itself, which from reading these books alone would seem to be
more of a universal experience than, say, its white equivalent.
Meridian Hill is a southern black woman, and the novel deals
with the years of her life between the end of high school (and her

brief marriage), and her involvement
ment, with Truman Held (a black Ci
his white wife, Lynne Rabinowitz.
The uniqueness of this story lies
its main character (forgive me, but
just about the last word on that subjt
subject too long glossed over by blac
hate which threatens to cripple Pr
self-hate not unique to blacks.
As she describes how the Movel
to rage and racism, it is shown how
ing to actually hate his naive, trusti5
her very whiteness, More thanitat
blame her, for all the iniquities P'5
white, and that is unforgivable.
Perhaps the most disquieting asp
fusing tale is that no one perforns0
create an impression of a certain

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