Kunstlerroman as Metafiction:

The Poetry and Prose of Fred Chappell

And the Art of Storytelling


Tending His Garden: A Body of Work

            "The gardener is a book about his garden," writes North Carolina Poet Laureate and award-winning fiction writer Fred Chappell in Spring Garden:

            He walks among these leaves as easy as morning

            Come to scatter its robins and tender noises.

            As the plants inhale the morning and its cool light,

            The book is open once again that was never shut.

            What now we do not know we shall never know. ("The Garden" 17-22)

For a writer so seemingly diverse as Fred Chappell, who has written multi volumes of poetry, in forms as varied as the couplet, classical hexameter, Anglo Saxon, and terza rima, and who has penned two volumes of award-winning stories, two volumes of criticism, and eight novels—from the darkly existential tale of horror to historical fiction, fantasy, folk, and tall-tales—it might seem ludicrous to attempt to distill his work to any single, core idea.  Indeed, Chappell can be as changeable as a chameleon, and as Keats would say, he possesses that "negative capability" to assume any narrative voice or persona, whether an "Imogene” or “Iago."  However, beyond the tour de force of style and genre, Fred Chappell's poetry and prose is essentially about the art of story telling and function of the creative imagination, which is to share truth and knowledge and to illuminate our lives with moments of being, Woolf's "slater pins" notwithstanding--to write a book that opens the reader "like a fan," as Chappell writes in The Function of the Poet, so that she "sees herself, her life, in delicate painted scenes" peopled by "strange folks" who fill a pensive moment and who enlighten and "comfort her" (15).

            To accomplish this task, Chappell mines his own deep reservoir of conscious and subconscious experiences, as a kind of protean Albion in a fallen world, assuming a variety of shapes to reflect the variety in the human condition.  He is an artist who tends his own garden, most often the region of Appalachia,  in order to till a more universal soil.  R. T. Smith notes that Chappell "begins with fictionalized autobiography and works toward parable and character mosaic" (38).  While the idea is essentially Swedenborgian and Romantic, what Chappell does, however, is more than just celebrate and sing himself in Whitmanesque fashion.  "It is not a matter of autobiography or confession," Chappell writes in "A Pact with Faustus"; "it is the using of one's very marrow and soul as a means of expression" (485).

            In the very fine essay "Experimentation and Versatility: Fred Chappell's Fiction," Casey Clabough asserts that there is "no grand fictional design" in the work of Chappell.  "Instead, he is the weaver of many small designs which come together and overlap at various points" (31).  Be that as it may, there is a remarkable wholeness and coherence to the expansive and varied work of Fred Chappell.  When read in total, Chappell's writing does, indeed, reveal an over-arching design: the poet, the fiction writer, the essayist looks deeply into his own "becoming" and "moments of being," transforming them through "the alchemy of art," as Henry James would say, in order to illuminate the being of each of us.  Chappell is, quite rightly, the "gardener" who is a book himself "about his garden."  His "leaves" that we turn reveal to us, from a universal collective unconscious, a rich reservoir of the stories that we are not able to express ourselves, as Emerson so explains in "The Poet," but already know.  Hence, all of Chappell's work draws appropriately from the stories, legends, conscious and unconscious experiences of this own real and imagined worlds.  There is thus a logic and reasonableness about the way Chappell's work unfolds before the reader: the early, dark and existential novels establishing the problems and moral imperatives posed by will and appetite operating in a postlapsarian world—the later poetry and prose reflecting on those concerns and moral imperatives, including the themes of time, mortality and the past, the quest for renewal, order, and understanding through both rational thought and the creative imagination (a kind of Blakean balance of the Apollonian and Dionysian aspects of human nature).  To drive home these varied themes and ideas, Chappell employs, in both his fiction and poetry, a wide range of rhetorical strategies, including allegory and symbol.

Young Fred Meets Rimbaud in the Green Valley: Growing Up in Canton

            Born on May 28, 1936 in Canton, an industrial mill town in the mountains of Western North Carolina, and growing up on his grandparents' farm a few miles from town, Fred Chappell experienced what might be described as an Appalachian middle class upbringing, at least to the extent possible in the rural south of the Depression and war years.  His grandparents owned a brick home on a hundred acre farm about twenty miles west of Asheville, and both his parents, James Taylor (J. T.) and Anne Davis Chappell, worked as school teachers to help offset the vicissitudes of farm life; J. T. later owned a furniture store in Canton.  Chappell grew up in a community where storytelling was rich and omnipresent and in a home where books were readily available and reading encouraged.  He read Shakespeare, Stevenson, Twain, Poe, and later Tolstoy, Rimbaud, and Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus, which had an extraordinary effect on Chappell as a novice poet (“A Pact with Faustus” 486-487).  Chappell also devoured fantasy and science fiction books, publishing as a teenager in such popular science fiction pulp magazines as "Robert Silverberg's Spaceship and Harlan Ellison's Dimensions" (Lang 2). 

            Early on, Chappell knew he wanted to be a writer.  He writes in his poetic autobiography Midquest of his grandmother's acknowledging him as "bookish" (94), yet reminding him of his mountain roots: "But it's dirt you rose from, dirt you'll bury in. /. . . Not all the money in this world can wash true-poor / True rich.  Fatback just won't change to artichokes" (99, 106-107).  When young Fred asks with childish curiosity, "What's artichokes?" his grandmother responds, "Pray Jesus you'll never know. / For if you do it'll be a sign you've grown / Away from what you are" (108-111).  The poetic recollection makes several points clear: the importance of Chappell's family and Appalachian heritage, the humor and whimsy that was part of his country upbringing, and the importance of storytelling in his family. 

Much of the whimsy that is apparent in the later poems and novels--which critics usually credit to the influence of Twain, the tall-tale, and the Western humorist tradition and influence—comes from Chappell's father, J. T., the Joe Robert of the Kirkman tetrology (I Am One of You Forever, Brighten the Corner Where You Are, Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You, and Look Back All the Green Valley).  The influence of Chappell's father can also be seen in the poet's concern for existential choice and the paradox of will in his work.  In a poignant poem in the Midquest collection called "My Father Burns Washington," Chappell portrays a vivid moment from a child's perspective on the depression years, when his father burns a dollar bill.  Coming home one night tired and despondent, J. T. declaims: "Money.  It's the death / Of the world.  If it wasn't for goddam money / A man might think a thought, might draw a breath / Of freedom" (32-35).   So in protest, J. T. burns the bill, "I refuse," / he says, "to kiss their ass" (47-48).    Chappell portrays this declaration of independence and assertion of a father's will with both the child's sense of awe and anxiety.  In another poem, "My Mother's Hard Row to Hoe," Chappell portrays his mother's memory of a string of hardships associated with farm life, the impetus for her learning "Latin and Spanish and French and math / and English literature” (47-48) so that she can do something besides farm work.  The mother of the poem recalls the endless routine of farm work, telling her son, "I wouldn't care if I learned myself to death / At the University in Tennessee / So long as I could tell those fields goodbye" (49-51).   However, when her son asks the question, "You really hated it then?" (53), she stops short, for a moment, her complaint: "No, that's not true". . . . There were some things I liked . . . I walked out in the morning with the air / All sweet and clean and promiseful and heard / A mourning dove" (54, 59-62).

The farm was always a mixed blessing for Chappell and his family, almost at times a bucolic luxury for which one had to pay the piper to enjoy.  In "My Father Washes His Hands," J. T. complains to his son, who pushes the pump handle as his father tries to wash away the dark clay from his hands: "A man's a fool in this age / Of money to turn the soil.  Never a dime / To call his own, and wearing himself away / Like a kid's pencil eraser on a math lesson" (14-17).  The harsh life of "turning the soil" takes a toll as well on the sensibilities of these "bookish" folk.  One afternoon while Fred is away at school, J. T. and Uncle Joe must bury the mule Honey, who has died.  The soil is rock-hard clay and the spade merely scratches at the resistant, unyielding earth.  After a time, J.T. announces that he is "going to bust her legs / And fold them under" (32-33), a harsh end for "poor Honey that's worked these fields / For thirteen years," as Uncle Joe complains (34-35).  The men finish the job, both feeling a sense of betrayal to the mule--"it was like / Closing a book on an unsatisfactory  / Last chapter not pathetic and not tragic, / But angrifying mortifying sad" (44-47).  The boy thinks out loud as he listens to his father finish the story: "It's kind of sad . . . Honey's gone."  "Gone?" J.T. answers his son, as he continues to scrub away at the clay on his hands, like some benign version of Lady Macbeth trying to assuage her guilt: "Six nights in a row I'd close my eyes / And see her pawing up on her broken legs / Out of that blue mud . . . / Honey's not gone, / She's in my head for good and all and ever" (69-72).   Though family stories in the Midquest poems are embellished with Chappell's exquisite imagination, the poems clearly portray the harsh life on an Appalachian farm during the Depression and give the reader an understanding of his family's sensibilities during these years.

In 1954 Chappell enrolled at Duke University, in order to study under William Blackburn.  The rich literary environment in which he found himself included such students as James Appelwhite, Reynolds Price, and Anne Tyler (Chappell, Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series, hereafter CAAS, 115).  Those were heady years, filled with long nights of poetry and drink.  Chappell recalls in "Rimbaud Fire Letter to Jim Applewhite": "Those were the days!. . . –But they went on and on and on. / The failure I saw myself grew darker and darker. / . . . It was a mess, mon vieux.  Finally / They kicked me out, and back to the hills I went" (73-74,77-78).   Chappell worked again on the farm, "hauling fertilizer, / Collecting bills, and trying to read Rimbaud" (93-94) and struggling against the existential angst that was rife among young intellectuals in the late fifties.  "The only good thing," he writes, "was that I got married. / And I watched the mountains until the mountains touched / My mind and partly tore away my fire-red / Visions of the universe besmirched" (97-100).  The poetic description is similar to Wordsworth's characterization in The Prelude of his own youthful angst and the healing powers of nature and his sister Dorothy.  In 1959, accompanied by his new wife Susan Nicholls, Chappell returned to Duke in order to finish his B.A. and serve as editor of The Archive, Duke's prestigious literary magazine.  In 1961, he began work on his M.A., completing his thesis in 1964, which was a concordance of the poetry of Samuel Johnson. 

The year before completing his Masters, Chappell published his first novel, It Is Time Lord, and the next year he joined the English Department of UNC at Greensboro as a teacher of creative writing, and with the exception of a year in Florence on a Rockefeller Foundation grant (1967-68), Chappell devoted his energy to teaching and to writing until his retirement in 2004.  His work, both teaching and writing, has been characterized by its erudition and by its extraordinary quality. Chappell has received the O. Max Gardner Award for teaching, the University's higher teaching award.  His third novel, Dagon, received the coveted Prix de Meilleur des Livres Etrangers (1971).  Chappell was awarded Yale's prestigious Bollingen Prize for Midquest in 1985, the T. S. Eliot Award in 1993 for excellence in poetry, and the Award in Literature from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.  In 2002, he was appointed North Carolina's Poet Laureate.

Will, Appetite, Time, and Existential Angst: The Early Novels

            One of the most important influences to shape Chappell's literary aesthetic was Poe, like Chappell a superb critic, poet, and storyteller.  Chappell's attempt to create a "unity of effect" and to structure stories that could be read at one sitting were a factor in writing the early novels, particularly his first novel It Is Time, Lord (1963), a book that deals with the existential theme of choice and how will and appetite serve to shape choice.  Underpinning the story, as it does almost all of Chappell's novels, is the interplay between time past and present, with the novel echoing the opening lines from Eliot's “Burnt Norton” of the Four Quartets:

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past.

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable. (1-5)

As the story opens, James Christopher has quit his job as production manager for a college press and is attempting to write a novel.  Supported by his wife Sylvia and two small children, Christopher nonetheless feels trapped and forlorn.  Christopher, burdened by a judgmental father whom he hasn't seen in years and a deep-seated sense of inadequacy, is saddled by guilt and the emotional baggage that has accumulated in his life.  Two traumatic events, in particular, seem to haunt his often-times flawed memories of his past—the burning of his grandfather's house, which may or may not have been the boy's fault, and his father's reprimanding James for neglecting his little sister when she stubbornly will not come in on a snowy evening.  However, his memory of these events is distorted, and Christopher wears a mask of self-deception, failing to face reality as he stumbles through his angst-ridden life.  He muses to himself and to the reader: "My memory of former days is a wound which can in a moment make itself known by uncorking a rotten stink" (95).  Yet he acknowledges the sham of his life and his own inability to discern truth, whether present or past.  "I am bound to my mask with bloody glue," he says to himself in a moment of atypical candor, "to ask for a sincere answer from me is to tear out my tongue . . . I can tell a sincere lie.  I have no attitude toward truth, and I do not like its attitude toward me" (96).

            Christopher becomes involved with a charlatan who goes by the name Preach.  Preach serves in the story as the protagonist's doppelganger or darker self; and through Preach (also named James), he is lured into the corpulent clasp of Judy, an easy woman from the other side of the tracks who represents the seamier side of appetite.  The affair is not particularly enjoyable.  "How disappointing adultery is," Christopher muses.  "It doesn't feel like a sin; it feels like a punishment" (99).  His giving way to his own appetites and willfulness makes him feel a sham, a fraud.  "For a long time now," he muses, "someone else has been living my life. . . . I have been completely usurped" (50).  Sylvia is at a loss as to what to do or how to help her flailing husband.  Christopher thinks to himself, "I keep two bloody red apes chained to myself.  Named Will and Appetite, these beasts tear and bite me.  When my heart is at last eaten away, they will quarrel and fight over my bones" (103).

            When the denouement of the story occurs, Preach is mortally wounded by Judy's husband, who mistakes him for Christopher.  Judy tells Christopher of Preach's death, casting blame on him; however, this time, Christopher is unwilling to accept the blame and attendant guilt from circumstances he cannot control or choices he has not made.  He says to Sylvia as he unburdens himself about Preach's death, "It's not your faulty when you do something you have to do, what you can't help.  There's no sin in it, then" (171).  Sylvia in some respect provides absolution for Christopher, telling him that, indeed, it is not his fault: "You don't have to feel bad about it, or guilty" (171).  Christopher feels as if a burden has been lifted from his life, as if he has "just burned down a house with all the bad things in the world in it" (171).  The epiphany at the conclusion of the story is one appropriate for the deterministic and existential universe Chappell has created for his characters: "I need not worry; things are going to fall into the shape that they make for themselves.  The pawns will all be ranked defensively in front of the bishops, knights, and rooks" (182).  With that, he turns to Sylvia in their bed and slips his arm beneath hers, and asks, "You won't leave me, will you?" (182), and he lies in bed waiting for his daughter and son to awaken and the family to rise for breakfast.

            In this first novel, one can also see the influence of Thomas Hardy and Thomas Mann, as well as the French symbolists.  James Christopher, as are many of Chappell's characters, functions as a kind of allegorical Everyman, to portray for us those universal ideas that drive the story.  As such a character, he reflects the Blakean duality of the Apollonian and Dionysian at war within each of us.  For Chappell, both a Southerner and Appalachian writer, the steadiness and continuity of family offers some anecdote for the feebleness and innate poison of our nature as human beings, trying vainly to function in a deterministic, tainted world.   Chappell utilizes a range of symbols to help portray these ideas, including a series of dreams at the end of the novel.  Most poignant, however, is Christopher's father's Army Code of Conduct card from the Korean War, which serves to qualify the dynamics of will, which in defense of one's men (or one's family) is tolerable.  The odor of burn that permeates the grandparents' home when it is rebuilt after the fire is a reminder of haunting memories and Christopher's misguided guilt.  Sylvia's helping her husband clean his study is an emblem for trying to put some rational order into his disheveled life—metaphorically they attempt to tidy the “mess” and baggage of memories and guilt that have burdened him.  The large clock that sits upon the mantel of his grandparents' home as the story opens provides a metaphor for time as it operates in the book (the protagonist narrator wanders back and forth from time present to past in the narrative structure), as Chappell presents to the reader a unique understanding of how the present actually shapes our attitude toward and our interpretation of the past, rather than the reverse always being the case.  It Is Time, Lord presents a number of themes and ideas that Chappell will continue to explore in novels that follow.

            In a 2001 interview, Chappell said of his second novel, The Inkling (1965), that he "wanted to tell a different kind of story, almost an allegorical story, about will and appetite" (Clabough 35).  He chose this time "a fairy-tale setting in the mountains of western North Carolina" and an Appalachian family to "act out the drama" (Clabough 36).  More under the influence of Hawthorne's allegorical style than the Southern Gothic of Faulkner and O'Connor, which critics usually associate with this work, The Inkling presents a disturbing story of a young brother and sister, Jan and Timmie Anderson, over a ten-year period, as the reader watches the progress of Jan's will and his sister's appetite react to the tragic circumstances that confront the two.  Except for the brilliant and surreal opening and closing of the story (where time is double exposed and Jan is both the surly stranger warning the children of their mortality and the tender child who hears the vindictive), the narrative is third person, more straightforward, and more chronological than It Is Time, Lord.  Chappell writes that the novel came to him "as a whole, almost as a vision. . . . Short and savage and serious, a book that took no prisoners" (Chappell 118).

            Timmie and Jan live with their mother, who has never recovered from the wound of losing their father in the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Their callous and sometimes comical Uncle Hake also boards with the family.  Theirs is a sterile environment, devoid of warmth and sentiment, except what the children provide for each other.  Older brother Jan is devoted to his simple-minded sister Timmie, who as the years progress sinks into insanity and becomes a danger both to herself and the family.  Jan, powerless and at the mercy of so many events outside his control, cultivates his will in a variety of ways.  He catalogues the wrongs and cruelties perpetrated by his school mates and Uncle Hake, "a stupid man . . . compensated for lack of intelligence by a generous share of animal cunning," and Jan patiently waits to wreck revenge (74).  An episode with the family cat becomes an emblem for Jan's willfulness, as he stares down the animal and then proceeds, as soon as the cat turns away from the boy’s penetrating gaze, to bash out his brains.  Only Timmie calls forth from Jan gentleness and feelings of human sympathy. 

The uneasy dynamic in the family changes for the worse when Jan is sixteen and nineteen-year-old Lora Bowen comes to live with them as housemaid.  Like Judy in It Is Time, Lora is portrayed by Chappell as both single-minded appetite and callous will, and her presence congers a sexual dynamic that throws the household even more out of kilter.  Lora, the housekeeper, gradually seizes the house, both literally and figuratively, like some incipient fungi smothering and devouring everything with which it comes in contact.  First, she confiscates Uncle Hake by marrying the old lecher, then she seizes for herself Jan's mother's bedroom, and when Mrs. Anderson loses her battle against cancer, she assumes ownership of the house itself.  Finally, on the day of his mother's funeral, Lora seduces Jan, but the coup de grace comes when Timmie intrudes on their liaison and stabs her brother, and Uncle Hake discovers the incestuous tryst.  Uncle Hake's failed attempt to shoot Jan results in Jan's shooting him, and the story ends like a Shakespearean tragedy with the dramatic world submerged in madness and chaos.   Lang writes that "The Inkling remains a gripping portrait of the self in extremis, a dark meditation on the trammeled human will" (32).

Dagon (1968), Chappell told an interviewer in 1990, was his "hardest book to write for any number of reasons," not the least of which was the presence of the supernatural and allegorical qualities in the book (Draper 110).  His third novel owes a debt to both Hawthorne and Melville, as it explores the influence of the American Puritan past and continues to reflect upon will and appetite and the extent of human degradation in a fallen world.  The book is also indebted to the horror stories of Poe and H. P. Lovecraft.  Chappell writes of the conception of Dagon: "It was to be pop art metaphysics . . . in which the garish conventions of pulp horror stories accurately depicted the terrors of contemporary civilization" (CAAS 119).  He adds that it was to be "rooted in a posited secret American history [the remnant worship of the god Dagon]" and that it was to be a retelling of the "Biblical story of Samson in modern dress" (CAAS 119). 

The protagonist in Dagon is a Methodist preacher, Peter Leland, on leave from clerical duties when he inherits his grandparents' old farmstead in the mountains of western North Carolina.  Despite something peculiar and troubling about the farm—“the alfalfa looked yellow and sickly, its life eaten away at by the dodder parasite" (27)—Peter and his wife Sheila settle into a welcomed sabbatical, he devoting himself to the study of the ancient pagan worship of Dagon and the remnants of its hedonistic cult that Leland believes still exists isolated in the mountains.  Leland's own Puritan proclivities have drawn him to this esoteric study, as he traces the sect  back to the Puritan era of Thomas Morton's Merry Mount.  While Peter and Sheila are picnicking one day, they happen to meet a stranger in the meadow, Ed Morgan, whose family has for generations lived on the Leland property. Morgan introduces Leland to his daughter, Mina, who instantly connects with the bookish preacher: "That body so stubby and that face so flatly ugly—something undeniably fishlike about it—and still, still it exercised upon him immediately an attraction, the fascination he might have in watching a snake uncoil itself lazily and curl along the ground" (29).  After this initial meeting, Leland becomes obsessed with the prurient Mina, who snarls at him on their first meeting: "You're so good looking I could eat you up. I bet I could just eat you up" (30).

The novel is divided into two parts, the first associated with Peter Leland's slow absorption into Mina's consciousness and influence, culminating in the murder of his wife Sheila, in whom he once thought he had found the perfect companion, her down-to-earth nature and natural beauty serving to lighten his own proclivities toward somber self-absorption.  Just as Sheila had rescued him from the attic chains in which he had accidentally entangled himself while exploring the old farmhouse, she represents that part of his life that adhered to the rational and she gave him a sense of equilibrium.  In killing Sheila, Leland has killed his rational self and is ripe for descent into the dark abyss that occurs in part two of the book.  Leland muses in the days before he bludgeons his wife that "inheriting the farm he had inherited Mina, inheriting the house he had inherited chains" (58).  Through drink and sex, Mina steadily consumes the will and spirit of Peter Leland; at last he is rendered impotent and is ready to be offered in sacrifice to the god Mina serves as priestess—Dagon.  Accompanied by her new stud-in-waiting, Coke Rymer, the three leave the farm on a road trip to the coast, Leland becoming more debilitated with each mile.  Leland clings to a broken pump handle that he seizes when he and Coke get into a fight, the phallic pump handle serving as an apt emblem for his impotence.  At last, they reach their allegorical journey's end, Leland's body is covered with a series of repulsive tattoos, and he willingly offers himself as a sacrifice to the sterile world of appetite and self-absorption that Dagon represents.  In the book, Chappell presents not only the metaphoric dissolution of one individual but what Long calls the "broader decay of cultural and religious values" in our secular and materialistic world today (44)

Chappell began The Gaudy Place (1973) on the backs of the galleys for Dagon while in Florence, where he, Susan and son Heath were enjoying the fruits of a Rockefeller Foundation grant in 1967.  He writes of this fourth novel: "I tried to write what I considered a more or less conventional novel with a gallery of recognizable characters and in the mode of ordinary American romantic realism” (CAAS 121).  This was to be a completely different story from anything he had written, particularly in terms of structure and narrative.  "It had occurred to me," Chappell says of the book's concept, "that I had actually published three novels without having faced the ordinary problems of fiction . . .  [which are] plotting, characterization, observation of mores, and details of verisimilitude” (CAAS 121).  The Gaudy Place is told from the point of view of a variety of characters, across the spectrum of social classes, as one would likely find in 1950s Ashville.  Fate, chance, and circumstance serve in the novel to interconnect these various classes who live in fictional Braceboro.  Initially, several of the citizens of Gimlet Street, the seedy side of town, are introduced: Clemmie, the whore; Arkie, the would-be pimp; and Oxie, Clemmie's pimp-on-the-rise, who is trying to position himself socially so that he can give up the "business" in order to become a bondsman and eventually a politician.  On the other side of the tracks are Andrew Harper, a college professor, Uncle Zeb, the good ole boy politician and brother-in-law of Andrew, and Andrew's son Linn, whose failed escapade with his buddies one night brings the two worlds of Braceboro together.  Each segment of the story is told from the varying point of view of one of these protagonists, Chappell's way of telling us that there is no definitive narrative in any given story.  The scenes between Clemmie and her pimp Oxie, for example, are replayed almost verbatim, but with two distinctly different  perceptions and interpretations.

On the face of it, The Gaudy Place is about the Southern classes and how they interplay and intertwine with one another; yet on a deeper level the novel, as do Chappell's previous works, deals with the interconnectedness of the dark and light, the tiger and the lamb or what Blake termed the "fearful symmetry" presented by a fallen world.  For example, Uncle Zeb, by virtue of his privileged place on the city council, buys up a huge track of property in the Gimlet Street neighborhood, knowing city plans for a new downtown parking lot and an urban development project.  Clemmie is one of the "faceless" displaced in the deal, after the city  condemns the area.  Uncle Zeb is scheduled to make a financial killing and sees nothing but a shrewd business move in his actions. Meanwhile, Arkie takes on Clemmie when Oxie, anxious to get out of the pimping business, dumps her.  To prove his loyalty, Arkie determines to wipe out the "pervert" John that Clemmie has complained about, whom Arkie thinks is Uncle Zeb.  As these machinations are happening, the boys in Linn's circle, bright, bookish, seemingly well-adjusted kids feeling their oats on a weekend at the lake when too many beers have been consumed, challenge each other, Roskolnikov fashion, to an inane, lawless escapade which lands Linn in jail.  There Oxie sees his opportunity to do a favor for one of the law-abiding and upstanding citizens of Braceboro and enter into the straight life.  When Oxie contacts Andrew Harper to tell him that his son is in jail, Andrew is at a loss as to what to do, and in comes the buoyant and savvy Uncle Zeb, who will accompany them to the city jail, pull some strings, and get Linn out of his foolish predicament.  The denouement occurs when Arkie shows up as well, to shoot Uncle Zeb, whom he thinks is the villain in Clemmie's imaginary soap opera she has conjured about a pervert “John.  Of course, the irony is that Uncle Zeb is, indeed, a villain, an opportunist, an economic predator in conducting his shady real estate deals from the privileged political vantage point he enjoys.  Chappell reveals—with wonderful humor, a keen eye for detail, and an extraordinary ear for the language of these disparate social worlds—not only the darker side of Gimlet Street but the darker side of the good ole boys who run the town council and generally run the show for most of us; in so doing, he enlightens the reader about the interconnectedness of good and evil and the potential for darkness in us all, even in a privileged child such as Linn. 

Midquest and Dante: Searching for the Philosopher's Stone

Chappell's last novel with editor Hiram Haydn, who had moved with Chappell’s novels from the Atheneum to Harcourt Brace, was The Gaudy Place.  While his books had received critical plaudits, had won prestigious prizes, and had been translated into other languages, they had not achieved the popular success that delights a publisher, so sometime after the book came out, Harcourt Brace dropped Chappell from their author list, and he turned his full attention to poetry, though he had considered himself principally a poet from the beginning of his career.  Louisiana State University Press had previously asked for a manuscript for their new poetry series, and Chappell obliged them with The World Between the Eyes.  Chappell writes that "poetry has been my first allegiance for ever and ever" (CAAS 122), but he was not pleased with his volume, characterizing it as "weak in conception and execution" (CAAS 122).  Then after the Monmouth Review requested material from Chappell for publication, he sent them a new poem he had just completed, which became the germ for what must surely be considered his poetic magnum opus, Midquest (1981).  While Midquest was difficult and time-consuming to write (he began the poem in his thirty-fifth year but did not finish it until age forty-four), Chappell says that he never "experienced such unalloyed joy in the act of writing, and rarely in life itself as when working on this poem" (CAAS 122).  The poem is an unabashed kunstlerroman, in the tradition of Aurora Leigh by Barrett Browning, who also called her poem a "verse novel" (Midquest ix).  However, Midquest has more in common with Wordsworth's The Prelude, with its Romantic, philosophical flavor and more ambitious conception.  The poem is modeled after Dante's epic and employs conventional epic traditions, as well as other innovative poetic strategies, but most important, after the somber existential novels of Chappell's earlier publications, novels that clearly portray the world in bleak, postlapsarian terms, Midquest aims straight for the kind of acceptance of the world and epiphanic moments that Wordsworth achieves in The Prelude.  Chappell makes clear that Midquest provides a vision of rebirth and renewal, as does The Divine Comedy, the work to which it is most overtly indebted.  However, Chappell also writes that the poem is “after all, in its largest design a love poem" (xi).

As Dante took stock of himself on his thirty-fifth birthday, so too does Chappell's Old Fred.  Doing so, Chappell employs a variety of verse forms: free and blank verse, terza rima, Yeatsian tetrameter, rhymed couplets, classical hexameter, dramatic monologue, stream of consciousness, epistolary, elegiac, and Anglo-Saxon verse, as he explains in the Preface.  Midquest is a tour de force in poetic style, on par with the finest stylistic productions in English literature, including those of Pope and Dryden, both of whom influenced Chappell in the work.  As in any epic, there is a scope and breadth to the poem that captures not only the Appalachian region with its array of distinctive characters and voices, but it portrays universal thoughts and feelings, as the poet celebrates himself, his own emblematic, universal rebirth, and each of us as well.  The volume has four parts, each representing one of the essential elements: water ("River"), fire ("Bloodfire"), air ("Wind Mountain"), and earth ("Earthsleep").  Chappell explains the numerology utilized in the volume: ". . . four is the Pythagorean number representing World, and 4 X 11 = 44, the world twice, interior and exterior" (ix).  Each volume has eleven chapters, each is dominated by a different "element of the family, River by the grandparents, Bloodfire by the father . . . " (x).  In each division, however, two characters overshadow all in terms of the structure and dramatic ideas: the irascible Virgil Campbell, a mainstay in Chappell's prose and poetry (in this poem, modeled after Dante's Virgil and serving as the poet's guide on his interior journey and a source for story-telling); and his wife Susan, who serves as muse and symbol for the earth goddess, functioning both as a grounding force in the poet's journey and as his inspiration.  Susan is the anima to the poet's animus, and only by "merging the two," as Rita Sims Quillen writes in "Good Ol' Fred Wrestles His Anima: Women in the Poetry of Fred Chappell," can he hope to create (43).  Certainly, it is evident in Chappell's later, immensely successful novels—the Kirkman tetrology—that recognition of the female principle and voice becomes an essential component in the artist's journey.

Without question, Susan provides a center for Midquest, as she does as well as for the equally brilliant Spring Garden (1995)—indeed, perhaps for Chappell's creative life in general.  It is no accident Chappell begins the story of his life and work in the Gale Contemporary Authors Autobiography essay with this sentence: "On August 2, 1959, I married Susan Nicholls" (113).  Quillen explains: 

Susan stands beside him throughout each section of Midquest in poems set on Stillpoint Hill, as the poet surveys the literal and metaphorical landscape and holds her hand.  The goal here is what Abrams describes as the ultimate goal of the Romantics: "higher unity . . . or a recovered paradise . . . . a "scene of recognition and reconciliation . . . signalized by a loving union with the feminine other." (44)

Susan is Chappell's idealized Beatrice; she is also the monomythic female principle who accompanies the hero in pursuit of knowledge.  She is, like Wordsworth's Lucy, associated with nature and with the imagination, and she is the female principle linked with the image of water, representing simultaneously the source for our origins and a hope for rebirth.  Chappell writes in "On Stillpoint Hill at Midnight":

            The moon, Susan's a-tilt now.

            Let us join hands, descend

            This star-bathed hill

            To where the study light, the kitchen

            Light, corridor the dark.

            Let us enter breathless our leaking house,

            Turn bedsheets, prepare to voyage

            Wherever these midnight waters stream. (138-46)

Associated with the moon, Susan represents, as well, imagination—the wellspring to creativity and the Romantic conduit for illumination or enlightenment.

            As in all epic poems, the mythic descent into Hell offers one of those opportunities for illumination.  In "Cleaning the Well," young Fred is lowered into the grandfather's well to perform an ablutive ritual to clear the water of fallen debris.  As he is lowered, the boy muses:

            Two suns I entered.  At exact noon

            The white sun narrowly hung above;

            Below, like an acid floating moon,

            The sun of water shone.

            And what beneath that?  A monster trove


            Of blinding treasure I imagined. (14-19)

The treasures he finds seem trifles of everyday life--" plastic pearls, monopoly / Money, a greenish rotten cat, / Robber knife, toy gun, / Clock guts, wish book, door key" (56-59)—the retrieved "things" of life past.  The speaker adds:

            Was it worth the trip, was it true Descent?

            Plumbing my childhood, to fall

            Through the hole in the world and become . . .

            What? He told me to go. I went.

            (Recalling something beyond recall.

            Cold cock on the nether roof of Home.) (61-66)

The descent and symbolic death is not only necessary for the hero but has the potential for rebirth, as the rest of the poem reveals.

As Chappell "plumbs" his past, a portrait is presented of values more than adequate to offer balm for the troubling visions of the early novels, and more important, they are essential in this portrait of an artist as a middle-aged man.  For example, in "My Grandmother Washes Her Feet," the poet as a young boy listens to stories of those tainted apples on the family tree: John-Giles who had a predilection for whiskey and bad women; Bubba Martin, who "killed hisself at last with a shotgun" (43), and Paregoric Annie, who was overcome by madness.  "There's places Family ties just won't stretch to," says his grandmother (58), leaving young Fred to speculate just where he will fit on the family tree--with the misfits or following the footsteps of the tried and true good folk of the green valley.  Old Fred, however, has few delusions: "I strained to follow them, and never did. / I never had the grit to stir those guts. / I never had the guts to stir that earth" (126-28). 

In poems like "My Mother Shoots the Breeze," "My Mother's Hard Row to Hoe," "My Father Burns Washington," "My Grandmother Washes Her Vessels," "My Father Washes His Hands," "My Grandfather Gets Doused," and others, we learn of family legends and the common threads of character that are sewn together to provide a mythos for the poet, a mythos that becomes not only a source for stories but for values.  The characteristic Chappell humor and the poet's matter-of-fact realism keep the poems from sinking into bathos and sentimentality.  Yet there is a Romantic appreciation for the physical world that colors the realism, as seen in "Second Wind" when the grandmother escapes a house full of mourners on the day her husband is buried and watches "a wade / Of breeze" come "row to row," rippling across the cornfield, feeling sublimely lifted from the pall of death and sadness (91-92).  With these "spots of time" and "moments of being," Chappell provides loftiness to the down-home humor, and the reader is enriched many times over.

            Because Midquest is essentially a kunstlerroman, Old Fred has ample opportunity to share with the reader aspects of his poetic aesthetic.  Indeed, in poems such as "Rimbaud Fire Letter to Jim Applewhite" and "Hallowind" we get insight into Chappell's conception of the artist, as well as his ideas about the nature of art.  For example, in "Hallowind," a kind of one-act play or dialogue reminiscent,  in its dialectal approach of Dryden's Essay on Dramatic Poesy, we observe Old Fred in conversation with Reynolds Price about art, as they listen to the wind, functioning often in Midquest like Shelley's West Wind, a kind of metaphoric Anima Mundi scattering the seeds of the poet's art or, in the case of "Hallowind," a collective unconscious for all the stories ever told.  Reynolds declares the wind to be "Voices . . . The ghosts of stories not yet written" (6) .  Old Fred poses the question, "Suppose, though, that I choose to read / The myth within.  Is it so bad / To add more meaning to each word?" (44-46).  Reynolds replies that "Things as they are: That's the novelist's true belief / I regard the symbol as a thief / Which steals the best parts of a life" (62-65).  Chappell leaves the reader with a sense of the futility of such "lofty" aesthetic arguments and gives the wind itself the last word, implying that ultimately we cannot hope to capture Nature with mere words:

            We'll let them sit and sip their tea

            Till midnight; then I'll shake the tree

Outside their window, and drive the sea

            Upon the land, the mountain toward the Pole,

            The desert upon the glacier.  And all

            They ever knew or hoped will fall

            To ash. (140-46)

Chappell closes Midquest with another trip to Stillpoint Hill for him and Susan.  The vision or epiphany that is transmitted to the reader is one that offers sanity, “sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing,” as Keats would say. It also looks forward to the Spring Garden volume in its gentle admonition that we look to knowledge and to home (the "book light and kitchen light") as sources for satisfaction in this care-worn world and, with as much dignity as possible, that we tend our own gardens.  Chappell writes:

            Susan has taken my hand, I clutch

            her voice though it comes fitful

            in the starshot earthdark.

            Her voice is in surges

            the soothing of a thousand waters.

            . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

            These are the flower-worlds with all

            the visionary petals shriveled away.


            Please hold my hand, may we

            go down now, home?

            Where booklight and kitchen light

            furrow the silence? (62-66, 74-79)

"Spots of Time" and the Unfolding of the Artist's Mind: The Kirkman Tetrology

            Peter Makuck explains the essence of the four latest works of fiction in Chappell's canon: "In the Kirkman novels, as in his poetic tetralogy Midquest, Chappell is redefining the nature of what ultimately sustains" (170).  The Kirkman novels are certainly that and in some sense serve as a culmination of the whole of Chappell's canon, in their teleological exploration of those dualities operating within a fallen world and how we might adjust to such dualities, but they also are an extension and completion of the Midquest collection as they suggest the specifics of that adjustment.  Chappell explains: "I began to toy with the short stories generated by Midquest and struck upon the notion of a quartet of novels which would balance the Midquest tetralogy, surrounding that poem with a solid fictional universe" (CAAS 124).   To both temper and enrich the "celebration of self" that kunstlerroman entails and that the Wordworthian egotistical sublime demands, Chappell looked to the tradition of the Southwestern American humorists, particularly to Twain.  He writes of his new interest in fiction: "For the purposes of the quartet it needed to fit solidly into the American tradition of frontier humor, with lots of eccentric characters and practical jokes.  The four novels were to be progressively sophisticated in technique, a little model of the history of modern fiction" (CAAS 124).  These factors make I Am One of You Forever (1985), Brighten the Corner Where You Are (1989), Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You (1996) and Look Back All the Green Valley (1999) fitting companions for much of the writing that preceded them.

            The "fictional universe" that Chappell planned for the Kirkman novels follows the same essential Dantean and Pythagorean organization of Midquest.  The four elements—water, fire, air, and earth—provide focus for each volume respectively, and each book has ten chapters with an epilogue rounding off the number to eleven, just as the structure of Midquest.   The cast of characters, introduced to us in Midquest, form a chorus in the Kirkman novels to flesh out and reflect upon ideas presented in the poetry.  Young Jess Kirkman, an artist-in-waiting until the last volume, is the narrator of the four-volume kunstlerroman, though his father Joe Robert (the J.T. of Midquest) is the principle focus of Brighten the Corner and Look Back, and often a center of consciousness in the novels (as his son comes to terms with the past and its reflection upon the present, as well as the reverse).  As in Midquest, the Kirkman tetrology is essentially about the art of storytelling and the significance of this art as it helps us adjust to and accept the less than perfect world in which we operate (note Chappell's playfulness with his protagonist's name "Kirkman," an Appalachian or Scot-Irish version of "Chappell").   The books rely heavily upon myth and symbol to make their points; as in Midquest, for example, Virgil Campbell, the garrulous grocer appears in each of the volumes, as a friend to Joe Robert, whom Jess envisions in several of the volumes as Aeneas.  The utilization of tall-tales and the Appalachian landscape and character provide a sense of place and time (from the 1930's to present time) that ground the stories.  Finally, if Midquest is, as Chappell says, "something like a verse novel" (ix), the Kirkman books are without question prose poems: the lyrical nature of their unfolding, the magical imagination that imbues them with exquisite warmth and humanity, and finally what Robert Morgan calls their "exactness, richness, and liveliness of the language" provide nothing less than "a savoring of words" (More Lights Than One xi) and a feast for aesthetic feeling.

            Like "The River" in Midquest, I Am One of You Forever (1986) is structured around the element water—opening with the poignant vignette of Joe Robert and Jess having finished a building project to surprise Jess's mother, Cora.  The bridge they've constructed to span the creek glistens in the sunshine, just before they hear a loud rumbling of water roiling toward them and father and son scramble up to the road for safety.  The Challenger Paper Company has illegally opened the floodgates.  Joe Roberts mutters, "the bastards," as the bridge is torn away from its mooring and washes downstream on its side—a  startling symbol for our best efforts gone awry by the callous vicissitudes of life.  The rest of the book portrays a series of stories provided by guests, mostly uncles, who come to visit the family farm.  The volume explores the nature of storytelling and how the artist’s words help us adjust to and interpret the world. 

The women in the volume "appear" solid, dependable, flexible enough to bend with hard times, often taskmasters, while the men appear troublesome and tricksters (though Chappell makes clear in all four books that nothing is ever completely as it appears).   Jess's grandmother, Annie Barbara Sorrels says to Joe Robert, "You got a good heart, Joe Robert, . . . . But you ain't come to serious manhood yet. You ain't ready for any meeting with your Lord. You are too flibberty and not contrite."  Yet Jess confesses that he "came to find out over the years that much of her wisdom was unsound, but when she propounded no one questioned" (68).  However, the Lord does speak to Joe Robert, quite directly and dramatically, during a violent storm eleven days later when he, Jess, and Johnson Gibbs, a farm hand and sort of "adopted" son to the Kirkmans, are in the barn "mucking out the milking stalls."  As they huddle together in the protection of the barn, all three swear they hear the voice of God coming down to sanction one of the latest of Joe Robert's practical jokes (68-74).  This event brings the reader to a crucial point Chappell makes about the nature of storytelling and family legends that shape our being, and even the nature of literature that molds us.  James Kirkland writes in his essay on Chappell's fiction, "Tall Tales and True": "Stories are also a means of affirming one of the most crucial lessons Jess comes to learn during the course of his journey: that truth is relative and meaning ultimately indeterminate" (252).  Nonetheless, the stories serve a necessary purpose, as Kirkland writes, "reminding us of what we already know intuitively: that when we tell a story about people from a different place or time, we temporarily bring them back into our lives, just as we return imaginatively to the past whenever we attempt to recreate it through our legends and tales" (252).

            From the array of stories and family legends, Jess gathers his own collective "spots of time," as Wordsworth characterized such moments, which lead him to the small epiphanies necessary to travel safely in this world of woe.  The reader joins Jess to relive her own "spots of time"  and moments of enlightenment.  On the journey we meet Uncle Luden with his gift for the girls and propensity to strong drink, Uncle Gurton and his boundless beard who allows Jess the magic of his imagination, Uncle Runkin who carries his finely crafted, home-made coffin with him everywhere he goes, Doc McGreavy with whom Johnson Gibbs and Jess experience a harrowing Halloween adventure, and John Clinchley, who manages the fish camp and whose tale of personal woe is comparable to Job's. All of these characters tap into the imagination and humanity of young Jess, but two visitors seem to rise above the others: Uncle Zeno and Aunt Sam.

            Uncle Zeno is without question the master storyteller of the book, the Homer of the Green Valley.  His visits to the farm challenge Joe Robert's  supremacy as local wit and master trickster.  Uncle Zeno, his name an apparent reference to the Greek stoic philosopher, appears in the novel appropriately after the family learns the shocking news that Johnson Gibbs, who had enlisted at the outset of World War II and was in training at Fort Bragg, has been mortally wounded.  The family grieves deeply, particularly Jess who shared his room with Johnson and who regarded at him as a "brother," but at last they accept the event, as demonstrated by the magical disappearance of the telegram announcing Johnson's death to the family.  

Uncle Zeno is portrayed in the mold of the classic western tall-tale or mountain "windy" spinner.  The traditional tag, "That puts me in mind of . . . " announces a story, but so much can he enrapture his audience that when Uncle Zeno finishes, "the night [goes] silent" (118).  Uncle Zeno is a kind of conduit for the collective unconscious where all our stories repose, his mode of narration "dry, flat, almost without inflection" (97) but his audience always riveted.  Jess concludes that storytellers are less in the thick of life than absorbers of the myths and images that surround us to become fodder for their songs.  Joe Robert is continuously in competition with Uncle Zeno, but Jess believes his father falls short as a storyteller.  He recalls that the "trouble with my father's storytelling" was that he was "unable to keep his hands off things.  Stories passed through Uncle Zeno like the orange glow through an oil lamp chimney, but my father must always be seizing objects and making them into swords, elephants, and magic millstones, and he loved to end his stories with quick, violent gestures intended to started his audience" (193-94).  Though Jess will eventually gain an appreciation for another kind of imagination that his father possesses, the power of Uncle Zeno's stories, particularly his tales about Buford Rhodes, gain such preeminence with Jess that the boy speculates: "What if Buford Rhodes had ceased to exist upon the earth because Uncle Zeno told stories about him? . . . What if Uncle Zeno's stories so thoroughly absorbed the characters he spoke of that they took leave of the everyday world and just went off to inhabit his narratives?" (113).   It comes to Jess that the reality of art is pretty powerful, often eclipsing "reality" itself.  Jess muses, "The only place you could find Achilles these days was in the Iliad.  Had he ever existed otherwise?" (113).

            If the power of the story is omnipresent, the power of music is even greater to move us to a higher plane, to transcend the uncertainty of daily living; and here is where Aunt Sam's story concludes I Am One of You Forever.  Aunt Samatha Barefoot is the family musician, a colorful woman, a legend, "as full of mischief as my father" (166), Jess recalls, a woman whose fanciful words simply enthrall Jess.  Joe Robert declares that she "knows how to live with her feelings.  When she wants to cry, she just cries right in front of everybody and goes on with her business.  When she wants to laugh, she doesn't hold back an inch" (169).  When Aunt Sam comes to visit the farm, Grandmother Annie Barbara Sorrells (Samantha's cousin and a character whose name references the famous mountain ballad) is visited by bitter-sweet memories, since music was once her own ambition but she was ordered to give up her fiddle playing by her sternly religious father.  When Annie Barbara is forbidden to go to Scotland for a folk music festival, Samantha goes in her place, and thus begins a sterling career that spanned the decades and included regular visits on the Grand Old Opry.  Over the years, the family hears occasionally from Aunt Sam, but mostly Annie Barbara gives up her music, won't allow the children to listen to the Opry on the radio, and concentrates on "running the farm and on Jesus."  Jess muses that "until Aunt Sam had showed up, [his grandmother] had quietly succeeded" in these endeavors (174).  As close as the two women were in their youth, it seemed there was now "a flaw" in the relationship, "a hairline fracture no one else would notice but which remained a tender spot between the two" (174).  When Aunt Sam finally convinces her cousin to join her in an evening of making music, the fracture is miraculously healed.  Annie Barbara accompanies her cousin on the piano to the tune of "Come All You Fair and Tender Ladies."  When they finish, to the delight of neighbors and friends who have come to meet the famous aunt, they are holding hands "like schoolgirls and listening" to Jess's awkward rendition of "The Green Laurel."  Looking back on the event, the narrator of the book, an artist now and singer of his own poems and tales, declares, "If I could sing . . . I wouldn't sit scribbling this story of long ago time" (179), and with these words the first book of the tetrology ends.

            Some critics have viewed this first volume as Chappell's most loosely organized of the Kirkman novels, a series of stories lacking the narrative cohesiveness of the other books.  However, Chappell has said that this was the one publication that he "was happiest with."   He adds that besides Midquest, "I knew I had done almost exactly what I wanted to do" (qtd. In Lang 209).  Indeed, the placement of the tales is skillfully accomplished in order to present a coherent narrative purpose.  Aunt Sam’s story praising the joy of music, that sublime art form, as Poe asserted, with its position on the highest aesthetic plane, concludes the volume and follows the sad tale of John Clinchley, the old man at the fish camp, an emblem for all the toil and trouble that life can hurl at any human being.   Driving home with his son after the failed fishing adventure and after having encountered Clinchley's story, Joe Robert breaks the quiet ride by hitting "the steering wheel with the heel of his open hand four times. 'Oh Jesus Jesus,' he said.  'I wish Johnson Gibbs hadn't got killed'" (165)—the sad fate of Johnson Gibbs being the central tragedy of the book.  What Chappell does then is to allow both Zeno and Epicurus to have the last word in the kunstlerroman, this story of the making of a young artist—as the stoic vision and aesthetic ideal to seize each lovely moment ultimately offer balm to any traveler down life's often impossible path.

            Brighten the Corner Where You Are (1998), the second book in the series, is organized around the element of fire and analogous to the "Bloodfire" volume of Midquest.  Here the duality between darkness (represented by the stupidity of war and ignorance of narrow-mindedness) and enlightenment (represented by science and philosophy which serve to vitiate ignorance and despair) provide tension throughout the book.  As in the early novels, time plays an important part in the unfolding of the story, since the tale takes place roughly on a day in the life of Joe Robert, a teacher at Tipton High School, called before the local board of education to answer a parent's complaint that he is teaching the evolutionary theories of Darwin to the students.  While Jess is the narrator, Joe Robert provides the center of intelligence that operates throughout the book.  The story is enriched by a wealth of classical allusions, with references to Virgil, Bacchus, Prometheus, and Socrates.  Pervading the story, the Apollonian forces of knowledge and science and the Dionysian spirit of imagination are both seen as necessary to engender the spirit of art and hold at bay the ignorance and darkness all around us. 

            Toward the end of the tale, Joe Robert takes stock of what has been a harrowing and absurdly surreal day:  "Let's see, he thought.  First I fell out of a tree.  Then I jumped in the creek.  Then I sat in a dusty chair.  Then I fell down a chimney. . . . Could happen to anybody . . . .  I mean, it all makes sense if we can go through it step by step" (180).  It does, indeed, make sense, given the tenor of the times, as Joe Robert and the reader careen toward the wonderfully anti-climatic moment when he appears before the school board to answer the charges about his teaching made by those "dour and surly Holy Roller Gwynns" (69). 

The day has a less than auspicious start, with Joe Robert rising early for a hunting trip, finding himself in a wrestling match with a bobcat, and falling from a tree after a silly stunt that characterizes his prankster personality and what he and his friend Sandy call "a priority of delight" (83).  Bruised and shaken, he heads for school, and on the way rescues a child drowning in the creek, in the process ruining the clothes he has donned for the board meeting.  The workman's garb he put on at Virgil Campbell's dry-goods store to replace his drench clothing is hardly appropriate for his presentation before the board, but Joe Robert presses onward.  He is, in fact, a hard one for the stogy board to accept--his Socratic method of teaching too enlightened, his reasoned quest for truth and knowledge too embellished by a flamboyant sense of humor and gusto for life—but his students never forget the lessons they learn, as evidenced by Lewis Dorson's parents’ wish to give their son's war medals to Mr. Kirkman when the young war hero, damaged irretrievably when he returns to the valley after the war, shoots himself.  "It was the war," his mother says.  "It's no different than if he'd died overseas" (65).  Here is Chappell's indictment against the most serious form of ignorance that human beings give themselves over to—a violent propensity that even young Jess isn't free from, as evidenced by his fist fight with Burell Farnum, the tenant farmer's son who goads Jess into fighting him.

            In the bowels of the school building boiler room, Joe Robert encounters school custodian Jubal Henry's secret memorial to all the fallen lads in the war.  The scene is surreal, and Chappell utilizes a poignant opportunity to portray one of the rare African American characters in his stories.  Jubal's dignified and simple attempt to honor those who've been the brunt of perhaps the most blatant result of human ignorance stands at the heart of the novel.  The magical scene also provides Joe Robert with a “descent” into a "hell" of man's making and a “return” that is consistent with the paradigm of the monomyth.  When Joe Robert makes his way out of the labyrinth of the dark school house basement, just as Socrates forecast, the light of the upper world is blinding: "When he stepped through the steel door into the rational sunlit life of the upper world, he fell into confusion.  The light dazzled him for a moment.  Then came a sensation of fresh relief, a feeling as of being unwrapped from his winding sheet and given over naked to the blue sky of Maytime" (133).  

At this point a new catastrophe occurs—a mischievous goat is loose on the school grounds, finding his way to the roof of the building.  Thus ensues Joe Robert's dual with Bacchus, the goat, and the school teacher’s fall down the flue as he tries to "talk" the recalcitrant animal down.  Jess muses when the debacle is done, "My father understood at last.  This goat was no innocent runaway, he was a decadent aesthete; he was no embattled Achilles, he was Oscar Wilde" (148).  However, far from being a renegade debauchee, Joe Robert's Bacchus helps Jess to understand the necessity of the Dionysian spirit in the pursuit of art and truth.  By the time Joe Robert puts his sooty, bedraggled head through the door of the school board office for the 3:00 meeting, shouting—“Look here, . . . You can't fire me. I quit" (170)—it is perfectly clear what he must do.  The echo of Emily Dickinson's "much madness is divinist sense" reverberates through the closing pages of the book.

            The delightful scene of the befuddled school board is truly a tour de force in comic writing for Chappell.  The board members think the disheveled creature who poked his head through the school board door a madman. "Whoever it was, he looked like an insane dope fiend," board member Jack Coble asserts (174).  By the time the board finishes trying to figure out what has happened, a genuine comedy of errors has occurred, and they have no intention anymore of firing Joe Robert.  What is more, Joe Robert will be singled out by the governor for his heroism in rescuing the little girl and offered a position by the Governor to head up a "Special Commission on Education" (189).  "First you get to be a hero, then they make you into a bureaucrat," Joe Robert tells the newspaper woman who comes to interview him about his heroic act (191).  But Joe Robert Kirkman has made up his mind not to be a teacher anymore. 

Jess sees his father as "Aeneas, as he descended into the underworld to meet the dead and rose into the light to talk with the gods and battled the backward barbarian forces" (202).  However, the knowledge he ascends with is tinged with the existential bleakness engendered from living in a fallen world.  After a conversation with one of his students, Janie Forbes, while the two sit together on the rusty bleachers watching a baseball game, Joe Robert learns that his prize student, this beacon of light in his classroom, this young woman with such grand potential, will give up her hopes for college and settle down to a conventional life in the mountains with one of the local lads.  Joe Robert shares his own news with Janie--that he won't teach anymore.  He thinks to himself after the game is over, "Socrates . . . can kiss my rusty dirt-farming ass. . . .  We don't need skeptics here, he thought, we need enlightenment.  Down with Socrates; long live Prometheus" (200). 

Joe Robert has done his best to pass on some fire to those living in darkness, to "brighten the corner" where he is, but this task in such a world as ours is daunting.  In the dream epilogue which concludes the book, Joe Robert makes an impassioned plea for Charles Darwin in the boiler room basement of the school, where Darwin is on trial.  All the school board is present, and in their infinite wisdom they are anxious to hang "one of the greatest minds the human race had produced" (208).  Joe Robert gives an impassioned plea for reason and knowledge, but his is a voice in the wilderness.  He comes to the conclusion that perhaps both he and Darwin were wrong about the theory of evolution, certainly with regard to "that great Everest of the living world--Man" (210).  It appears that perhaps in the end Socrates’ skepticism does indeed win out regarding the ways of this world: 

The more favorably I speak of our species, the more its history gives me the lie.  The briefest glance at our record discovers us to be steeped in blood and reveling in it.  We have enjoyed naming compassion weakness and have murdered with full public assent the wisest and most humane of our teachers . . . . We choose war as the final arbiter among political philosophies, and wage it against our civilian populations, our children and or parents.  The best of our ideas we have made into excuses to kill our own kind and the other animals among with ourselves. (211)

The chortle we discern as Joe Robert turns over in his sleep, just as the Darwin of his dreams plummets from sight, leaves us to understand that the verdict, however, may still be out regarding the hopelessness of the human race.

            The women's tales of Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You (1996) offer instruction in the delicate business of being civilized and serve to balance the tales told by the Uncles in the first Kirkman volume I Am One of Your Forever.  Air is the element that binds together the stories in this volume of the tetrology, with the corresponding humour sanguineness suggesting beneficence, joyfulness, and hopeful confidence.  While Jess again is the principle narrator, Chappell relegates him almost to a silent listener, as grandmother Annie Barbara and mother Cora serve as conduits for the stories.  In the narrative frame, Annie Barbara is dying and her daughter is tending her, as Joe Robert and Jess sit quietly aside to observe the passing of time, in this case "time past" which informs the artist's vision: "If we lose your grandmother, if Annie Barbara Sorrells dies," says Joe Robert to Jess, "a world dies with her" (5). 

For Jess, the young artist-to-be, the women represent imagination, inspiration, even that fierce illumination that augers the duality of the "fearful symmetry" signaling the postlapsarian state: "We will listen to the wind whisper and weep and tell again those stories of women that your mother and grandmother needed for you to hear," muses Joe Robert to his son. "We will hope that this house stays rooted to its earth and is not carried away by the wind into the icy spaces beyond the moon" (5).  When the grandmother's passing is complete at the end of the book, when time, for a moment, has been skewed and all the clocks in the house are hopelessly out of kilter, the past fuses with the present to bode a new time: "It would be a different kind of time [without the grandmother] we had to live in now," Jess thinks; "it would not be steady in the least and the winds would be cold in our faces against us all the way" (228).  When Joe Robert asks Jess if he is ready to go down the dark hallway to bring his mother back to them, Jess answers that he isn't ready but will go with his father.   Joe Robert says to him "Good, . . . [s]he's going to need us."  "We're going to need her too," the artist son replies (228).  Chappell's frame thus provides significance for these particular tales and how they speak directly to the artist who must learn "to listen," and like the women, be a conduit for all the voices of stories yet to be written. 

            Farewell, I'm Bound To Leave You is in some part an experiment in "revisionist myth-making," as Chappell utilizes the stories of these women to explode stereotypes associated with females.  For example, there is Aunt Sherilie Howes ("The Figuring Woman"), who is a paragon of reason and rational thinking, and there is Cousin Erlene Lewis ("The Fisherwoman"), befriended by the irascible Old Man Worley who decides to teach her the fine art of fly fishing and in the process both the troublesome old man and the young girl are transformed.  On the day that Erlene catches her biggest trout, Worley breaks his ankle.  For the first time, she has to drive in order to retrieve help for Worley and thus experiences a coming-of-age adventure.  In the progression of their friendship, Erlene's confidence and self-assuredness blossoms, while Worley is humanized by his association with Erlene.  Their story is a metaphor for both the potential sympathy and mutual benefit possible between the sexes, as well as a lesson in storytelling—the patience one must acquire as he "fishes" for a narrative.  Cora, who is telling Jess Cousin Erlene's story, answers her son's question as to how she knew all the details of the story:  "She told me a lot," replies Cora, "and then I put myself in her place so that I could tell the story to you.  That's what storytellers do.  Maybe you'll remember that if you ever take a notion to tell stories" (100).

            Another lesson Jess learns in storytelling, and for that matter in life, is that we all perceive our stories, our realities, from our own unique vantage points, making our stories often times remarkably different from the recollections of others.  The best example ("The Shooting Woman")  is when Jess hears his grandmother's version of the infamous kite story, which culminates in the marriage of his mother Cora and Joe Robert.  Jess has heard the tale from his mother and from Joe Robert; however, this time grandmother Annie Barbara presents a distinctly different rendition, as the two are in the storeroom checking the grape juice cans for leaks in the seal.  The mundane task offers two important benefits: the opportunity for Annie Barbara to share an alternative reading of a family legend, as well as to serve, after dinner, the flawed jars of juice, now miraculously transformed, like a fine story, into fine wine.  Jess thinks, "I had never heard how my grandmother had planned out the whole drama from day one and how her strategy had worked every step the of way as perfect as a waterwheel turning" (38). 

            The women whose stories Jess hears as they "unstopper the story jug" (179)--Aunt Sherlie Howes, Erlene, Cora, Selena Mellon (the tranquil woman), Chancy Gudger (the madwoman), Ginger Summerall (the feisty woman), Angela Newcome (the charitable woman) and others—serve Chappell's fiction, and Jess's transformation into an artist, as keepers of good society, forces for moderation, manners, and common sense.  They are also conduits for the Wind Woman, who inspires the artist and provides a source for all stories; they are guides to the underworld (the collective unconscious or repository for all our stories); and they are keepers of the family legends.  In one of the most significant surreal and magical parts of the book, Cora takes Jess up Ember Mountain to meet the Wind woman.  She tells her son that if he ever takes "a notion to write about our part of the earth, about the trees and hills and streams, about the animals and our friends and neighbors who live in the mountains, then you must meet the Wind Woman, for you'll never write a purposeful word till you do" (104).  On the way, Jess encounters a variety of women who are necessary on his journey to art and through life, and each imparts her own unique wisdom, but it is the Wind Woman, like Graves' fearsome White Goddess, whom he must visit alone and who teaches him the most valuable lesson of all.  As Jess waits in the empty cabin, he sees a mandolin on a chair, volumes of Homer, Milton, Shakespeare, and Virgil scattered about the room.   When he closes his eyes, his head rings with "speaking voices and voices singing and instruments playing" (114).   At last he claps his hands over his ears, and all goes silent except for the sound of the wind.  "Now I understand," he thinks. "This journey was for me to come here to this cabin and let these sounds come upon me.  I can't figure them out by myself.  The Wind Woman will teach me how to lay out these sounds in proper fashion . . . [and to be] patient to consort the sounds of the hollers and slopes and valleys below into music" (115).  The visit to Wind Woman is Chappell's metaphor for listening to those "ancestral voices," as Coleridge writes, that speak to us the stories and legends of the past, and she helps the artist sift through and make sense of those stories that reside dormant in our collective unconscious, future fodder for art.

            The final story in the volume (as in I Am One of You Forever and Look Back All the Green Valley) touts the special place that music holds for Chappell as the most sublime of art forms. "The Remembering Woman" is related through multiple points of view, since that is how the truth of our stories comes to us.  Jess notes that for this tale there are four storytellers, the appropriate Pythagorean number: his grandmother, his mother, himself, and the celebrated musicologist and folklorist, Holme Barcroft" (196-97), who visited the mountains collecting ballads when his mother was a little girl.  Together the narrators make "a quartet," Chappell writes: "soprano, alto, tenor, baritone" (197).  The nuances of the story they tell reveal the best part of fine storytelling: "Stories have a hundred motives and a thousand sources," Jess says, "some as recognizable as tiger lilies, some as hidden as secret mountaintop springs" (197). 

We also meet in this magical tale the lovely Irish bacchantes Quigley and Qualley Lafferty and their twelve sprightly children, whom their parents call the "Whippets."  Barcroft comes to stay at their farm in the western Carolina mountains, as he gathers native music for his book.  To celebrate the event, the Laffertys have a square dance, inviting the whole valley to the celebration.  The music fills the mountains, poetry in every nook and holler of the hills; it is an Appalachian bacchanal of the most superb, and proper, sort.  The language of this section of the book is extraordinarily rich and lyrical, often exquisitely poetic (211).  As the music swells and the dancers lose themselves in the moment, Barcroft sees the house begin reel and tilt, quite literally—“. . . it had become a merry-go-round, turning steadily and stately as the music went just a little bit faster" (218).  At last, the giant harvest moon rose like "a hot-air balloon," perfume filling the air and moonlight effusing the landscape.  Like a benign version of "Tam O'Shanter," the magic of the night calls the "ghosts out of their graves" (220), and when the house and Dr. Barcroft finally come to rest at the end of this episode of magic realism, the moonlight (imagination) and music have transformed them all.  Annie Barbara declares that she doesn't understand a thing about the improbable story, and Cora agrees but tells her son: "You have to realize, Jess, that a lot of people looked down on us, saying we were ignorant hillbillies and other things they ought to be ashamed of saying" (221).  It is clear, however, as Hesiod would have understood, that their country fare has much to make them proud: "So if our works and days," Cora says, "got written up in his [Barcroft's] books that were read and admired all over the world—well, why shouldn't we take a mite of pride?" (221).  Cora closes the story with a final reference to time, linking past and present to future time, as she also puts into perspective Chappell's faith in imagination, which will unite science and reason with emotion and love—Blake's Zoas at last reintegrated: "My husband likes the new ways.  But you know what? There was one thing about Dr. Barcroft that reminds me of Joe Robert.  It's the way he talked about the moon, like it was as dear to him as someplace he might have lived.  What is it about men that they can't keep their hands off the moon?  Joe Robert told me he thinks men will travel to the moon someday."  Jess, the young artist, responds to his mother, "I think so too" (221).

In the final volume of the Kirkman tetrology, "Look Back All the Green Valley" (1999), Jess is grown and has indeed become a poet, currently composing "Earthsleep," the final volume of a poetic tetrology, which will be published under the singularly original nom de plum of "Fred Chappell"—which Chappell confesses, with typically whimsical coyness in "Too Many Freds," to be a "strategy born of desperation" of a "past-obsessed mind" (264).  As the novel opens, Jess is on a mission into his past, charged by his mother Cora, who is ill with congestive heart failure.  Ostensibly, Jess is to go through the contents of the workshop of his father Joe Robert, who has died some ten years prior, and he is to find a proper burial plot for his parents so that they might rest together when Cora dies.  In reality, he is at the final stage of the kunstlerroman, literally and figuratively  "digging up" his father's bones (4) and reflecting back on the past from the vantage point of the present in a metafictional recreation of past time that will complete the journey of the artist.  Look Back begins and ends with a magical sequence in the graveyard, as Jess and two cronies are digging in the rain to find the remains of Joe Robert.  Sitting on one of the gravestones watching with a keen interest the story about to be unfolded is the apparition of Uncle Zeno, the master storyteller.  And the moon, that omnipresent symbol of the romantic imagination, is waiting just behind the "oceans of basaltic cloud," poised to reveal its light through the storm-driven wind (3).

Jess finds his father's workshop in the basement of the Times Past Antique Clock Company.  When he begins to sift through his father's papers and the debris of the workshop (an important symbolic task that Chappell employed under a different set of fictional circumstances, though with the same fictional intention of sorting through the past, in his first book It Is Time, Lord), he finds a great deal that is perplexing, though just about everything he discovers in one way or another attests to his father's disdain for the hypocrisy and meanness that issues from ignorance and small-mindedness.  Most perplexing, however, is a map he discovers, with a series of women's names located at various points in and around Hardison County, North Carolina.  The map is divided into three parts, as John Long points out, with its "tripartite geography—Downhill, Vestibule, and Upward—[associated] with Dante's three divisions of the afterlife" (263-64).  At first, Jess thinks that the curious array of names might indicate in his father some secret lothario who had ensconced in every hill and holler a shady lady-friend.  Burning to know the truth, Jess informs his sister Mitzi and wife Susan that he will tour the county in order to talk to some of the old timers, to see if he can find a proper resting place for their parents, and, for his own peace of mind, get to the heart of the puzzling map.  As he travels through the mountain landscape much is changed.  Virgil Campbell's Bound for Hell Gro. and Dry Goods store is now a consignment clothing shop, and sundry encroachments have found their way into the landscape, following the path of I-40 which has opened the mountains to a hurly burly world vastly different from the simplicity of the Tipton Jess had known as a child.

Look Back is filled with references to Dante and garden imagery: Jess's wife Susan has remained at home to tend their garden while he tracks down the elusive Joe Robert; on his journey across the county, he seeks the help of Aunt Penny Hillis, whose own orderly garden "was like the woman, cheerful, friendly, and well disposed" (122); and flowers will hold the secret to the riddle of Joe Robert's strange map.  Aunt Penny, the monomythic female whose knowledge will aid the hero on his journey, assigns the task of accompanying Jess to her nephew Cary Owen, whom she says "kindly looks after me, chopping kindling and all, plowing my garden and hoeing in it" (124).  In their progress across the county, Jess, the poet, and Cary, a latter day Virgil, engage in some serious speculating and storytelling.  In the end, the women's names—“Martha Flandry, Bess Lovertt, Mrs. Mawley, Mrs. Sinkins, Marie Antoinette, and Annie Laurie" (232)—turn out to be types of roses, an allusion to Dante's celestial Rose (Lang 265), and Joe Robert's planting them across the county is part of an elaborate scheme of his to reconstruct time. 

Joe Robert's "Floriloge," as he explains in a flashback, is an elaborate, organic clock composed of different strains of roses planted across the county, the roses calculated to bloom in a sequence to measure time, a device which will "induce the resonance of an essential harmony of human spirit with the regular processes of the cosmos" (232).  The Floriloge was to serve not only as a new way to measure time but to provide "a more intimate relationship with the living and breathing cosmos" (232).  The Floriloge, which Joe Robert has named “Fugio” after the poet whose words introduce each of the ten chapters of the book and whose name means "I flee" (235), also serves as a metaphor for Chappell's appreciation of the old ways of living which provide a model to slow us down, to keep us from "measuring out our lives in coffee spoons," and to help us "enjoy the days as they pass":

"The planting has to be precise," [Joe Robert] replied.  "But the computation of time will be freer, more relaxed, more humane than it is now.  Those fictitious little units that drive us crazy will finally be erased from human consciousness.  First, the nanoseconds will disappear; then milliseconds will go, then seconds and minutes and quarter hours and half hours.  Finally, the concept of the hour will be wiped out and we will all saunter footloose and carefree through the daylight." (233)

Jess is amazed at what he discovers about his father.  After all these years of thinking Joe Robert a man of reason—a scientist, a paragon of the logic and disdainer of ignorance—he comes to find him a mystic: "It now seemed . . . that Joe Robert Kirkman, he who fancied himself the representative of science and reason and human progress, had begun to think in mystical terms and to occupy his days with symbolic gestures" (161).  Like the ideal protagonist that Poe portrays in "The Purloined Letter," a protagonist whose powers of logic are commensurate with his powers of poetry, Joe Robert Kirkman is a man of both imagination and reason—a man who would challenge a myopic school board, the powers that pollute the landscape in the guise of the Challenger Paper Company, and all the bigots and specious hypocrites found among the superficially religious.  Taking stock of his father's inventions and accomplishments, Jess finds that they were mostly failed efforts (265), but what Joe Robert did do for his son and the good folk of the Green Valley was to provide a model for how one's individual will and self-expression might co-exist in a fallen world that conspires against any sort of existential autonomy or freedom—Joe Robert, as his son discovers, is the integrated "Albion."   In this respect, the character and the Kirkman books, come full circle in Chappell's canon, providing an answer to the perplexing questions he had posed about will and appetite in the early novels.

            Some critics have criticized Chappell's inclusion of the science fiction fantasy episode in chapter nine of Look Back; even Chappell himself has said that the section might have been a "miscalculation" of his readers' "reading habits" and attention to metaphor, a typically kind and self-effacing commentary about this misreading of the book.  In his 2001 interview with Casey Clabough, Chappell suggests that "in terms of the book's artistic design, [the scene] is a little disconcerting.  But now that the book is finished, it seems necessary to me.  I'm glad I did it.  I can't think of another symbolic, hyperbolic way to show the kind of hopefulness that characterized the American spirit just after the Second World War" (Claybough 40). 

The scene is a surreal episode, where all the family—except for grandmother Annie Barbara, who elects to remain behind and "study the book of Exodus" (227)—piles into the family space craft, the Isambard (named for Isambard Brunel, one of Joe Robert's science/engineering heroes in Brighten the Corner).  Their "mission" is to fly to the edge of Veilwarp, to see the "moon" (an episode for the literalist which might merely be a creative father's fanciful way to entertain children cooped up on a long road trip in the 1940's).  The space journey is a wonderful multi-faceted metaphor to imply the simultaneousness of time, as the trip parallels the time-warp of both 1949 and 1969, when the first Americans did, in fact, go to the moon (244).  It suggests as well the preeminence of imagination, a necessity in both science and literature; and the episode serves as a metafictional vehicle suggesting the necessity of a literary tradition from the past to inform and give meaning to literature today.  As the Isambard prepares to travel through time and space, Joe Robert takes a moment to expound on his theory of a "conservation of thought" (213).  He tells Jess: "Two of the most important laws in physics are those of conservation of mass and conservation of energy.  Isn't it logical that there must also be a conservation of thought?  Nature can't well afford to lose the mentalities of geniuses like Galileo and Dirac and Barbara McClintock and Eva Curie” (213).  Just as Eliot, in “Tradition and Individual Talent,” saw the need to incorporate the poetry and the thought of past writers into one’s verse, so too does Chappell believe the ideas of the past inform and clarify the writing of the present age. 

It is clear in the last chapter and in the epilogue of the book that Jess's journey has really been about the art of storytelling and what it means to be an artist, told from the perspective of a mature Jess.  It is interesting to note that throughout the whole of the Kirkman books Jess has often felt himself an outsider, trying to figure out where he belongs in the continuum of his fellow human beings.  In many ways, Jess is a mild and eminently saner and more courteous version of many of the existential characters of Chappell's early novels.  The difference is that the James Christophers and Peter Lelands pose mostly questions as they exude their considerable angst, while Jess (and Chappell) discovers answers as to how one can survive in this complex and troubling  world, a place where capricious, shallow values and “ignorant armies” clashing by night tend to diminish one's freedom of will and choice. 

At the end of his journey, Jess has not only solved the mystery of the map but he has come back with a plethora of friendly neighbors who are more than willing to offer a resting place for Joe Robert and Cora Kirkman.  So Jess and his sister Mitzi have a picnic, inviting all the good Green Valley folk, serving plenty of food and providing the music of the New Briar Rose Ramblers (Aunt Sam's reconstituted band).  The music is fine and the food delicious, and when the festivities come to a close, Joe Robert reads his father's "tongue in cheek" will (which gives him the last laugh at the school board, the paper company, and the religious hypocrites and sundry mean folk of the valley).  The will puts many of the events and most of the villains of the past three Kirkman books in fine cosmic, as well as comic, perspective.  Then Jess does the only "fair" thing he can think of—“draws names" to see who will host their mom and dad in eternity, though his own good “will” has already rigged the drawing so that, appropriately, the down-to-earth and simple Irelands win Annie Barbara and Joe Robert.  Afterward, as the community listens to the New Briar Rose Ramblers' rendition of "Look Back All the Green Valley," Harley the mandolin player voices the sentiment that Chappell has expressed in each of the previous Kirkman books--"It's the songs that keep us alive--or keep the life worth living, anyhow" (269).  Whether the music is from a mandolin or from a poem, it encourages each of us to "seize the day."

Works Cited

Chappell, Fred.  Brighten the Corner Where You Are.  NY: St. Martin's Press, 1989.

__________.  Contemporary Authors Autobiography Series. Ed. Adele Sarkissian. Vol. 4.  Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986.


__________.  Dagon.  Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1987.

__________.  Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You.  NY: Picador, 1996.

__________.  The Function of the Poet.  Salem, Virginia: Roanoke College Press, 1990.

__________.  The Gaudy Place.  Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1973.

__________.  I Am One of You Forever.  Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1985.

__________.  The Inkling.  Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1965.

__________.  It Is Time, Lord.  Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1963.

__________.  Look Back All the Green Valley.  NY: Picador, 1999.

__________.  Midquest.  Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1981

__________.  More Shapes Than One.  NY: St. Marti's Press, 1991.

__________.  "A Pact with Faustus." The Fred Chappell Reader. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1987.

__________.  Spring Garden.  Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1995.

Clabough, Casey.  "August 6, 2001 Interview with Fred Chappell."  Appalachian Heritage 31 (Summer 2003): 35-40.

Draper, James, ed.  Contemporary Literary Criticism.  Vol. 78.  Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1993.  90-117.

Kirkland, James.  "Tales Tall and True: Fred Chappell's Look Back All the Green  Valley and the Continuity of Narrative Tradition."

More Lights than One:  On the Fiction of Fred Chappell.   Ed. Patrick Bizzaro.  Baton Rouge:  Louisiana State UP, 2004.  239-


Makuck, Peter.  "The Kirkman Novels: First and Last Concerns."  More Lights Than One: On the Fiction of Fred Chappell.  167-185.

Quillan, Rita Sims.  "Good Ol' Fred Wrestles His Anima: Women in the Poetry of Fred Chappell."  Appalachian Heritage 31 (Summer

 2003): 43-47.

Smith, R. T.  "Proteus Loose in the Baptismal Font."  Dream Garden: The Poetic Vision of Fred Chappell.  Ed. Patrick Bizzaro.  Baton

            Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1997.

                                                                                                Sylvia Bailey Shurbutt, Professor of English

                                                                                                Appalachian Heritage WIR Project Director

                                                                                                Shepherd University