At their best the fiction and non-fiction of William Price Fox capture that reality which D. H. Lawrence terms "the spirit of place" in both the narrowest and broadest sense. Essentially, Fox is a South Carolina and a Southern writer. His collections of short stories, Southern Fried and Southern Fried Plus Six, are good and funny, but with the exception of a few pieces are little more than local color exercises…. Yet Fox's later fiction as well as some of his non-fiction indicates that he is capable of doing much more. Though they have the usual regional setting, both Moonshine Light, Moonshine Bright, and to a greater extent Ruby Red, move toward the development of a larger theme. (p. 30)
Fox's short stories are varied within a somewhat restricted setting, and there are some fine moments in them. The dominant mood is one of tempered nostalgia as the narrators describe life in the Bottom of lower-class Columbia or reminisce about Wilma, the waitress who helped the neighborhood boys to manhood in the back of an abandoned Chrysler. But it is not until Moonshine Light, Moonshine Bright that Fox's talent for evoking a mood or creating a "character" begins to attain something other than that fine moment…. The novel follows two teenage boys, Earl Edge and Coley Sims, in their summer-long quest for a cheap car. The loose plot affords an opportunity to introduce quite a few characters and scenes. In the course of their wanderings, the boys encounter professional bootleggers, loan sharks, and even a murderer. But most of their acquaintances are good old neighborhood folks, people who have learned to survive. Instead of being dragged down and defeated by their circumstances, the inhabitants of the Bottom move in and out of the 90° heat and in and out of jail with equal aplomb. (pp. 30-1)
Though they obviously reflect the limited concern of a young boy hankering after a car, Earl Edge's thoughts aptly communicate the disparity between the lives of the haves and the have-nots. Such homespun philosophizing occurs frequently among the Bottom inhabitants, and much of it concerns the "little man" and his troubles. Though both are familiar, neither the characters nor their homilies appear hackneyed or artificial. Rather than creating what might have been a series of stereotypes, Fox has fashioned a believable group of people; poor and uneducated, their expressions of fear ringing with humor and authenticity. (pp. 31-2)
What the Bottom dwellers do have is a native resilience and instinct for self-preservation. (p. 32)
This ability to cope is due to their refusal to take themselves or their problems too seriously. Earl and Coley's response is typical when they lose the 1940 Hudson they have worked all summer to buy. As the boys watch their precious car with its stuck accelerator sink into the Cooper River, they do the only thing possible—they laugh…. Although they acknowledge that they never had a "goddamn Chinaman's chance," the...
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