William Price Fox HENRY McDONALD - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ten years have elapsed between the publication of William Price Fox's last novel, Ruby Red, and his new one, Dixiana Moon, but the wait has been worth it.

Dixiana Moon tells how a Southern huckster named Buck Mozingo (or Buck Brody as he also calls himself), specializing in religious revivals and traveling tent circuses, induces a young salesman in New York, Joe Mahaffey, to abandon his safe, sterile existence in the big city and follow Mozingo down the Southern backroads of high adventure. Though Buck, like many of Fox's Southern heroes, is a loser, he is a joyous one, and it is in his character that the central theme of the novel is highlighted. This theme is that Southern lifestyle, with all its boozy hypocrisy and "mush-mouth" cynicism, possesses an integrity and innocence—even a kind of moral cleanliness—that is lacking in the North.

Dixiana Moon is thus something of a sales pitch for the South—with Fox playing the role of huckster to his Northern readers. The product being offered is Southern mystery and manners and these are vividly conveyed in a host of wonderful tales (such as Mozingo's account of a wharf rat crying) scattered throughout the book. Whereas Ruby Red seemed at times to sprawl aimlessly (if entertainingly), Dixiana Moon sustains a singleness and intensity of purpose that is hard to say no to. William Price Fox's new product is terrific.

Henry McDonald, "Novel Reading: 'Dixiana Moon'," in Book World—The Washington Post (© 1981, The Washington Post), April 5, 1981, p. 10.