Blood and Memory.By Robert Benson. Huntsville: Texas Review Press, 2006 ISBN 978-1-881515-90-6 in black cloth $24.95 and 1-881515-91-5 paper $18.95 5 1/2x8 1/2. 168 pp. http://www.shsu.edu/~www_trp/ Distributed by the TAMU Consortium.
This childhood memoir of the author and his father sets in a Louisiana that is easily replicable in Deep East Texas. If you’ve played barefooted in the yard as a child, reacted to snakes, tromped the woods, saw your brother decapitated, been sent away, or lived within a flow of family secrets and love, you’ll find Benson’s recollections a rewarding, redemptive read. It moves quickly. Benson, a successful English professor and writer, taught for a while at the University of Dallas but has spent most of his time elsewhere. Some of these stories first appeared in literary journals, including Sewanee Review. Benson has closely inspected Cormac McCarthy’s work, and there is an interesting affinity between McCarthy and Benson.
The honesty and plain style of Benson feel like an intimate conversation over a gingham covered kitchen table. The anecdotal telling with salient details takes you to places of mystery, childish delight and pride, horror, superstition, mortality, and meditation. Blood and Memory has a better bite than the Willie Morris (another fine Southern interloper) volume Good Old Boy. Compelling reading. Could be good to entire the reluctant high schooler to read. - WH