Madison Jones is first and foremost a southern writer. His books are all set in and around Tennessee, but they encompass the spirit and turmoil of the American South in general. His novels all include some aspect of southern history, ranging from the pioneer settlers in 1802 to the civil rights marchers of the 1960’s. He seldom has written about the Civil War itself; the war figures largely in his 1997 novel Nashville 1864, but in most of his works it is present only through its shadow.
During the 1960’s, critics such as Robert Penn Warren and Allen Tate placed Jones at the head of the second generation of twentieth century southern novelists, those who wrote in the shadow of William Faulkner. Louis D. Rubin, for example, in his 1963 essay “The Difficulties of Being a Southern Writer Today: Or, Getting Out from Under William Faulkner,” uses Jones’s third novel, A Buried Land, as an example of a southern novel that deals with the modern South on its own terms and not those established by Faulkner. Rubin asserts that Jones writes about a world different from Faulkner’s, with different loyalties and demands. Although one might question the absoluteness of Rubin’s conclusions—Faulkner does, after all, look clearly at the problems of the changing South in his later works such as The Town (1957) and The Mansion (1959)—the fact remains that Jones is more closely aligned with Warren, Lytle, and Tate, and with...
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