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IN BRIEF

Fiction

November 10, 1996|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

FAREWELL, I'M BOUND TO LEAVE YOU by Fred Chappell (Picador: $21, 228 pp.). This novel explores the more harmonious transformation of experience into art, as opposed to Ted Hughes (above), whose stories resemble wails from a condemned man. Jess Kirkman and his father wait in the living room of the family home in Appalachia while his grandmother lies dying in the bedroom, attended by his mother. With her a way of life will die; winds howl outside the house, the walls creak, the clocks stop.

Jess remembers the stories his grandmother has told: "For 30 years I've carried conflicting versions of many stories in my mind and have come no closer to discerning the truth than when I was 15." The stories carry many things, "the kind of people we were in our mountains, the way we would like for others to know us." "I've got so used to being fenced round with kinfolks," one character admits to an unmarried professor collecting local lore, "I'd feel undressed without them."

Contemplating change in the future and, perhaps the loss of her culture, his grandmother says: "What is it about men that they can't keep their hands off the moon? . . . If you and your daddy are going to the moon, you had better take plenty to eat. It looks to me like slim pickings up there."

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