In the Tennessee Country Essay - Critical Essays

Peter Taylor

In the Tennessee Country

IN THE TENNESSEE COUNTRY is the second novel and final work published before the death of a man long recognized as one of this country’s most distinguished writers of short fiction. The narrator and central character, Nathan Longfort, is the grandson of a United States senator and the sheltered son and nephew of three sisters. His mother and aunts always shielded Nathan from the harsher realities, so it had been a shock to see naked hatred on the face of a distant cousin on the funeral train of Nathan’s grandfather. The cousin, Nathan learns, is Aubrey Bradshaw, the illegitimate son of the senator’s brother.

Throughout a successful career as a writer of art criticism and a professor at prestigious universities, Nathan is haunted by memories of Aubrey’s hatred, and he tries to keep up with Aubrey’s doings as the older man lives a life of apparent ease and excitement. His fascination with Aubrey also colors Nathan’s relationship with his youngest son, Brax, who grows up to be the artist Nathan had wished to be. It is Brax who finally brings Nathan and the desperately ill Aubrey together.

This long-delayed encounter forces Nathan to face his life. Aubrey has been a gigolo and a playboy, a man of no distinction, but he has also escaped the smothering care of the family, something which Nathan had been unable to do. His fierce need for independence causes Aubrey to reject Nathan’s attempt to pay his hospital bills and take him back to the bosom of the family; he will marry one of the wealthy women he had known, preferring that kind of dependence to the kind offered by Nathan.

Sources for Further Study

Booklist. XC, June 1, 1994, p. 1726.

Chicago Tribune. September 11, 1994, p. 3.

The Christian Science Monitor. August 26, 1994, p. 13.

Library Journal. CXIX, July, 1994, p. 130.

Los Angeles Times. October 3, 1994, p. E4.

The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, August 28, 1994, p. 6.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, June 13, 1994, p. 49.

Time. CXLIV, August 22, 1994, p. 86.

The Times Literary Supplement. September 9, 1994, p. 21.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIV, August 21, 1994, p. 3.