In 1958 a nearly forgotten thirty-four year old Texas author named William Humphrey debuted his first novel, Home From the Hill, to widespread praise. Legendary director Vincente Minnelli released a film version only two years later. Both the book and the movie are highly rated by Amazon customers. The novel begins as follows:
Early one morning last September the men squatting on the Northeast corner of the town square looked up from their whittling to see…under the shadow of the Confederate monument, a dirty long black hearse with a Dallas County license plate.Thus, the curious reader is prompted to continue in order to learn the identity of the deceased who was returning from a distant big city to a place where the memory of the Confederate soldier remained central to the culture. It’s a fine novel and fascinating movie. In a later novel Humphrey wrote:
If the Civil War is more alive to the Southerner than the Northerner it is because all of the past is, and this is so because the Southerner has a sense of having been present there himself in the person of one or more of his ancestors. The war filled merely one chapter in his…[family history]…transmitted orally from father to son [as] the proverbs, prophecies, legends, laws, traditions-of-origin and tales-of-wanderings of his own tribe….It is this feeling of identity with the dead (who are past) which characterizes and explains the Southerner.
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