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  • 26 Jun 2012 at 3:26 pm #1648

    Peter Josyph

    Highly recommended for all members of the Society and readers of this Forum is an extraordinary work by Chip Arnold, WHAT VIRTUE THERE IS IN FIRE: CULTURAL MEMORY AND THE LYNCHING OF SAM HOSE (University of Georgia Press, ’09). The keen intelligence, the detailed research, the balanced judgment, and the delightful clarity of expression that has characterized Chip’s writings on McCarthy are on every page of this book, which examines the South’s first spectacle-lynching, a ghastly event that took place in the Georgia town of Newman 20 miles from where Chip was born and grew up. Mob violence and cultural memory are, of course, motifs in the work of William Faulkner—another field of Arnold expertise—and Chip examines the Hose torture and lynching in relation to Faulkner’s work as well as that of Erskine Caldwell.

    For those who do not know Chip by that name, he is the Edwin T. Arnold who writes some of the best and most enduring criticism of McCarthy, in addition to editing, with Dianne C. Luce, important collections of criticism on McCarthy. Chip was kind enough to let me read portions of WHAT VIRTUE THERE IS IN FIRE in manuscript, but reading the completed work is an eyeopener. Some of it makes the world of OUTER DARK seem almost demure. Chapter headings alone tell you much: “Lynch Sunday,” “The Palmetto Massacre,” “A Carnival of Blood and Lust,” “A Holocaust of Human Flesh,” “Beware, All Darkies!” The last two lean toward the world of BLOOD MERIDIAN OR THE EVENING REDNESS IN THE WEST: “Sex, Fingers, Toes,” and “Across the Road from the Barbecue House.” This is an awesome, important work of historical narrative by one of the leading scholars in McCarthy criticism. There is a good review of the book by Hugh Ruppersburg in the Winter-Spring MISSISSIPPI QUARTERLY for 2010 that can be found online. There is also a Kindle edition of the book on Amazon.

    27 Jun 2012 at 4:40 am #1652


    This a definite add-to for me. I recently read ‘The Warmth of Other Suns’ and it’s made pretty clear that a very big reason ( not the only one, however) for the mass-migration of African-Americans out of the South in the early part of the 20th century was the every day possibility of violence. Also, I wonder if the relatively few mentions of black people in ‘The Orchard Keeper’ is deliberate – in other words, the use of omission subtly alludes to the fact that the rural south was in the process of losing, or had already lost, its black population. However, I don’t know enough about the particular history of Tennessee to go beyond wild surmise here.

    28 Jun 2012 at 5:40 pm #1663

    Candy Minx

    Gee Peter, this is wonderful news! Thanks for the review!

    01 Jul 2012 at 8:09 pm #1669


    I want to thank Peter for calling Chip Arnold’s book, What Virtue There Is in Fire, to my attention. While I have read but a third of it so far and am in no position to write a book review at this point, I can recommend it enthusiastically. It is clear that Chip has done extensive research and skillfully written of the events leading up to the lynching of Sam House outside the Georgia town of Newnan in 1899. Ample use of contemporary quotations from area newspapers and illustrations taken primarily from Atlanta newspapers add a frightfully sobering appreciation of the times.

    Although not its purpose by any stretch of the imagination, the book also provides deep background material for the ragman’s story (Suttree, p. 257)of witnessing a somewhat similar event about eighty miles north and three years later (probably the lynching of Walter Allen in Rome, GA) making it even more relevant to readers of this forum.

    04 Jul 2012 at 12:20 pm #1682

    Good heads-up on Chip’s book. Thanks, Peter and Wes. Any update on Chip’s health. I wish him well and continue to hope for his full recovery.

    Upthread Cantona mentioned relatively few black people in TOK and East Tennessee.

    Compared to Deep South states in the 40s and 50s, most parts of Tennessee (possibly excepting Memphis) had fewer blacks. Growing up in Knoxville, I recall my mother pointing this out. She was born in Vicksburg, MS, and grew up in Memphis.

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