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And Our Critics Commend

September 29, 1985

In Country, Bobbie Ann Mason (Harper & Row). Sam, a 17-year-old girl from Hopewell, Ky., "searches the trivia of everyday life for images of the past it ignores." Moved in part by the death of her father in Vietnam, Sam listens to old Beatles' records and takes a special pride and joy in her secondhand Volkswagen. "Mason convinces us . . . every bit of the popular culture we live in is poisoned by the ghosts it denies; and that by remembering them, we let in sanity and health" (Richard Eder).

John Ruskin: The Early Years 1819-1859, Tim Hilton (Yale University). "Ruskin will need no other biography in our time." Hilton succeeds in depicting "both the least known major figure in English Literature, and the strangest," a man who used his prose during the first half of his life "to convince the English and American public, permanently, that visual art was something that deeply mattered" (George J. Leonard).

The Sixkiller Chronicles, Paul Hemphill (Macmillan). "Hemphill's central drama of a (North Carolina) man trying to raise his son, preserve his land, express his values in his music and ensure their continuity in succeeding generations remains as potent as good corn liquor. This novel has sweep, spunk, characters as richly Appalachian as a wine-colored fiddle and a rare, relaxed charm" (Frank Levering).

Good Intentions, Jane Adams (New American Library). "Anne Manning is failing as a parent even as she succeeds as a lawyer. Her 14-year-old son Billy is silent and sly, disruptive in school, headed for trouble . . . (and) Don, his father, is long gone, a voice on the telephone." The crisis, however, is eventually reconciled in this "traditional problem-solving novel with a traditional solution" (Susan Slocum Hinerfeld).

An Evening Performance: New & Selected Stories by George Garrett (Doubleday). "A Record as Long as Your Arm" is "a riotous account of faculty adultery gleefully told in the first person by the perpetrator" while "What's the Purpose of the Bayonet?" unites "five vignettes of Army life at the end of World War II." "All the stories are diverting; some edifying; many are deeply affecting and most manage to accomplish a bit of everything at once" (Elaine Kendall).

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