Glenn Arbery, the descendant of generations of Southerners and the father of eight children, grew up in the small-town South during a time of great change and strife. He attended the University of Georgia before taking his Ph.D. at the University of Dallas, and he has taught literature for over three decades. He is the author of Why Literature Matters (ISI, 2001), and the editor of The Tragic Abyss (Dallas Institute Press, 2004) and The Southern Critics: An Anthology (ISI, 2011). He now lives and teaches in Wyoming with his wife Virginia. Much as he loves the courtesy and humor of his native place, much as he admires the heroes of the Confederacy—Lee, Jackson, and Forrest, in particular—he has spent much of his life elsewhere. Yet he feels no sympathy with those, ever increasing in number and forgetfulness, who seem easy in their ideological dismissal of the graces and pieties of this land that gave rise to William Faulkner, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, Flannery O’Connor, and Walker Percy—this region whose tragic experience and comic hope reflect and deepen the biblical and classical strains that form the Western tradition.
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Bearings and Distances by Glenn Arbery, is a novel of comic ironies and tragic recurrences set in the “post-racial” moment of the American experiment.
In the summer after Barack Obama’s election, Hermia Watson, a scholar of black history, lures the famous (and famously irresponsible) Professor Braxton Forrest back to his hometown in Georgia, using his two daughters as unwitting hostages. Returning alone while his pious wife continues touring Italy, Forrest arrives to the tremblings of his abandoned past and a confrontation with the Furies he thought modernity had left behind. In the course of a few days, Hermia realizes what violent revelations she has begun to unleash about her former lover, her mother, and her own identity—but it is too late to stop what is coming to light.
Arbery revisits the obsessions of the 20th century Southern renaissance in a work that satirizes misconceptions and shallow pieties but takes seriously the wisdom of the Southern literary tradition—and its classical antecedents.