Navigating the Fiction of Ernest J. Gaines
A Roadmap for Readers
274 Pages / 5.50 x 8.50 x 0.60 in
- Paperback /
- 9780807171042 /
- Published: March 2020
- eBook /
- 9780807173398 /
- Published: March 2020
One of the South’s most revered writers, Ernest J. Gaines attracts both popular and academic audiences. Gaines’s unique literary style, depiction of the African American experience, and celebration of the rural South’s oral tradition have brought him critical praise and numerous accolades, including a MacArthur Fellowship, a National Humanities Medal, and a National Book Critics Circle Award for his novel A Lesson before Dying. In this welcome guide to Gaines’s fiction, Keith Clark offers insightful analyses of his novels and short stories. Clark’s close readings elucidate Gaines’s more acclaimed works—including The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Gathering of Old Men—while also introducing lesser-known but masterfully crafted pieces, such as the story “Three Men” and the civil rights novel In My Father’s House. Gaines’s most recent work, The Tragedy of Brady Sims, receives here one of its first critical examinations.
Clark shows how the themes of Gaines’s literary oeuvre, produced over the past fifty years, dovetail with issues reverberating in twenty-first-century America: race and the criminal justice system; black masculinity; the environment; the enduring impact of slavery; black southern women’s voices; and blacks’ and whites’ interpretation of history. In addition to textual discussions, the book includes an interview Clark conducted with Gaines at the writer’s home in New Roads, Louisiana, in 2014, further illuminating the inner workings and personality of this eminent literary artist.
Ernest Gaines's career was exceptional and enduring. Still, too few readers today this superior black talent as they should. That, though, is sure to change. Thanks to Keith Clark's definitive study, the late Louisiana author has a long afterlife ahead. No one I know has worked as assiduously or as honorably as Clark to keep our attention on Gaines over the decades. For students and scholars of Gaines or the black tradition, Navigating the Fiction of Ernest J. Gaines is essential reading. Clark's knowledge isn't only intimate; it is inspired. ~Maurice Wallace, author of Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in African American Men’s Literature and Culture, 1775-1995