Madison Smartt Bell Analysis
by T. Coraghessan Boyle

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(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Madison Smartt Bell’s essays on literary topics have appeared in such publications as Harper’s and The Review of Contemporary Fiction. His historical novel All Souls’ Rising (1995) was a finalist both for a National Book Award and for a PEN/Faulkner Award. It won a Maryland Library Association Award and an Annisfield-Wolf Award. In 1996, Bell was included in Granta magazine’s list of “Best American Novelists Under Forty.”


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Madison Smartt Bell’s short stories have been selected for such series as The Best American Short Stories and New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, as well as for various anthologies, including That’s What I Like (About the South) and Other New Southern Stories for the Nineties. In 1980, Bell was awarded Hollins College’s Andrew James Purdy Fiction Award. Bell received a Lillian Smith Award in 1989, a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1991, and both a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award and a George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Award in 1991-1992. He was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1992.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Bell, Madison Smartt. “An Essay Introducing His Work in a Rather Lunatic Fashion.” Chattahoochee Review 12 (Fall, 1991): 1-13. Bell explains how he came to share the southern Agrarians’ distrust of technology. His own spiritual pilgrimage led him to Giordano Bruno and animism, a faith that Bell believes could save the world from environmental disaster.

Bell, Madison Smartt. Interview by Bob Summer. Publishers Weekly 232 (December 11, 1987): 45-46. A lengthy biographical essay, supported by extensive quotations. Bell will always consider himself a southerner. He went to New York only because he had to move outside the South in order to find his own voice. Comments on “Triptych II,” his first published story.

Bell, Madison Smartt. “An Interview with Madison Smartt Bell.” Interview by Mary Louise Weaks. The Southern Review 30 (Winter, 1994): 1-12. In this 1992 interview, Bell explains how he came to know Andrew Lytle and Allen Tate and why he still holds Agrarian views. He comments at length on “Today Is a Good Day to Die.”

Bell, Madison Smartt. “Less Is Less: The Dwindling American Short Story.” Harpers 272 (April, 1986): 64-69. Criticizes the minimalists because their fiction merely reflects the sameness and emptiness of contemporary life. Traditional writers, like Ellen Gilchrist, George Garrett, Peter Taylor, and Bell himself, know that one must observe the most minute details before attempting generalizations about people or society.

Bell, Madison Smartt. “Time and Tide in the Southern Short Story.” In That’s What I Like (About the South) and Other New Southern Stories for the Nineties , edited by George Garrett and Paul Ruffin. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993. Insists that short stories by the newer southern writers lack the historical perspective that has defined southern literature....

(The entire section is 695 words.)