Illustrates Chappell's astonishing range as a novelist, poet, and short story writer
Understanding Fred Chappell introduces readers to a writer of poems, novels, and short stories whose accolades include France's prestigious Prix de Meilleur des Livres Etrangers, the Bollingen Prize, and the T. S. Eliot Prize. John Lang critiques more than twenty volumes of poetry and fiction of Chappell's work, which was published during a literary career that has spanned nearly four decades. Lang evaluates Chappell's four novels preceding Midquest, the first five volumes of poetry, the different books of poems published between Castle Tzingal and Spring Garden: New and Selected Poems, and the two collections of short stories. This study identifies and explores the principal influences on the writer, his major themes, and his use of humor as a counterbalance to the gravity of his moral vision.
Lang cites the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains of Chappell's youth and the writer's wide reading in the Western literary tradition as two dominant influences on his far-ranging oeuvre. Describing the writer's work as grounded in the region but in no sense provincial, Lang insists on the significance of the wider Western literary tradition in the allusions and Dantean structure of Midquest, in the prologue and epilogue poems of First and Last Words, and in the epigrams of C. Chappell's implicit and explicit confidence in the past as a resource is made clear in this examination of his writings.
John Lang is a professor of English at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia, where he has taught since 1983. The editor of the Iron Mountain Review, he has published essays on Fred Chappell, William Styron, Doris Betts, Ernest Gaines, Wendell Berry, Cormac McCarthy, Robert Morgan, and other contemporary Southern writers. Lang lives in Emory, Virginia.