Leaving the Land (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
Inspired in part by the recession of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, the United States is renewing its romance with the land. It gives shape to America’s national myth; it serves as emblem of its past achievements. In his poem “Hamatreya,” Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that man can never truly own the land, that it inevitably outlasts its momentary possessors and passes from one hand to the next. Still, there is pride in ownership of land, and more: trust and identity and responsibility. Thus, when Ike McCaslin voluntarily repudiates his ownership of land in Go Down, Moses (1942), William Faulkner presents the act as an abdication of duty. Even more tragic is to have the land taken away, to be stripped of the past, to lose the generational investment of blood. The archetypal novel (and film) of such loss is The Grapes of Wrath (1939); it is a theme recently rediscovered by Hollywood in such 1984 films as Country, The River, and Places in the Heart. It is further reflected in the writings of such regional writers as Bobbie Ann Mason and Lee Smith, and it is the central theme of Douglas Unger’s Leaving the Land, a novel which, as the title’s twofold thrust suggests, tells of a rural community’s gradual loss of economic and social identity, and of one family’s attempt to maintain its property as inheritance for another generation.
Unger’s novel is divided into two sections. Part 1 is told in...
(The entire section is 1740 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1985)
The Atlantic. CCLIII, March, 1984, p. 133.
Christian Science Monitor. LXXVI, June 20, 1984, p. 21.
Kirkus Reviews. LI, November 1, 1984, p. 1144.
Library Journal. CVIII, December 1, 1983, p. 2263.
Los Angeles Times. February 15, 1984, V, p. 6.
The New York Review of Books. XXXI, May 31, 1984, p. 35.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXIX, February 5, 1984, p. 7.
The New Yorker. LX, April 2, 1984, p. 133.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIV, December 9, 1983, p. 42.
Time. CXXIII, February 20, 1984, p. 78.
(The entire section is 60 words.)