Power in the Blood: Land, Memory, and a Southern Family

John Bentley Mays, Author, Richard Rhodes, Photographer HarperCollins Publishers $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-06-018269-4
Toronto Globe and Mail art critic Mays spent his early childhood on a Louisiana cotton plantation. The death of a reclusive widowed aunt in 1990 took him back, at age 49, triggering a search for roots. Mays describes himself as a Southerner at heart, contending that despite his embrace of modernist art and literature and of an urbanized Northern mentality, the Old South's traditions of civility and devotion to the land have indelibly molded his character. This intensely personal, elegiac memoir has the makings of a Southern Gothic--an alcoholic father whose death in 1947 may have been a murder; his mother's agonizing death from cancer; the author's chronic depression, his breakdown and recovery on an island off the coast of Ireland. Mays focuses on family genealogy, beginning with an Anglican minister who arrived in Virginia in 1610, through several generations of Methodist planters, merchants, lawyers, teachers, Confederate soldiers and politicians from the Carolinas to east Texas. Mays's evocative portrait speaks volumes about the Old South and its pull on the modern imagination. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-694-51878-4
Paperback - 286 pages - 978-0-06-092957-2
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