cover image Homeworks: Book of Tennessee Writers

Homeworks: Book of Tennessee Writers

. University of Tennessee Press, $18.95 (512pp) ISBN 978-0-87049-943-2

Straddling the fence between inclusion and selection, quantity and quality, Tickle and Swanson offer a scattershot bicentennial tribute to the Volunteer State. The 110 living poets, essayists and fiction writers with Tennessee connections here include plenty of big guns, though not everyone is represented by their best work. Will Campbell's sentimental newspaper essay, John Fergus Ryan's sarcastic parody ""Artist Drinks Perfume"" and Jesse Hill Ford's ""Work"" are marginal. The same is true of historian Shelby Foote's dated, drab ""A Marriage Portion."" Others--including Alan Lightman (Good Benito) and Abraham Verghese (My Own Country)--are represented by pieces already widely read. Emerging writers fare better. Jane Bradley's ""Barbie Mourns the Dead,"" Ann Patchett's ""Elizabeth Grown"" and Michael Lee West's ""Spring Fever, It's Catching, Run for Your Life"" don't so much subvert as transcend the standard domestic drama. Peopled by unfulfilled women and inarticulate men who are either troubled by dead spouses, estranged children, broken marriages or sustained by little victories, these fine, lyric stories make good on the editors' promise of an anthology ""as much predictive of the century to come as it is descriptive of the one just ending."". (July)