The Intolerable Wrestle

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Editor: Jeffrey W. Hunter
Date: 2001
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,102 words

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[(review date Winter 1972) In the following review of A Walk to the River, Buffington discusses Hoffman's Southern concerns and prose style, finding shortcomings in the novel's dramatization.]

William Hoffman is one of the writers indicted in Floyd C. Watkins' The Death of Art: Black and White in the Recent Southern Novel (University of Georgia Press, 1970). Professor Watkins' thesis, simple to argue, is that the fictions of Hoffman, Carson McCullers, Elizabeth Spencer, Harper Lee, Jesse Hill Ford, Peter S. Feibleman, and others, including even William Faulkner and Robert Penn Warren in some of their late work, fail both on the side of truth and on the side of art in their representations of the South according to liberal stereotypes. Hoffman's first novel, Trumpet Unblown, is an example, says Watkins, of the way these writers "usually reject the entire Southern tradition." In A Place for My Head--praised by The Saturday Review because "it points up the bitterness, the blindness, the stubborn pride, and the fear gripping the modern-day South"--"white and black are both so evil that little good can be found to praise in either race. ... 'All that's left in the world,'" one of the characters says, "'is bastards.'"

In A Walk to the River, however, Hoffman affirms the Southern tradition, insofar as that means reverence for the land and loyalty to family and to place. At the conclusion of the novel the narrator-protagonist is shocked to realize that his young son has turned the family store into an imitation of the junky, and not quite scrupulous, Progress Store up the street:

"I was running this store before you had bat brains,"...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100038761