Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hugh Jackman, Andrew Lytle and I in the Bahamas

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l to r: Hugh Jackman, Hugh Jackman's nanny, and me

So my wife and I were at a water park in Atlantis at Nassau a few days ago with Hugh Jackman, the actor. OK, so we weren't exactly "with" Hugh but we were at there at the same time and, as you can see, I have the picture to prove it.

Traveling can be a pain but, in addition to offering the occasional opportunity for a random celebrity sighting, it's a great chance to catch up books that need to be read.

For this trip, I included "A Wake for the Living" by Andrew Lytle which was published back in 1975.

I've run across references to Lytle several times in researching my own Tennessee ancestors and wanted to find out more about him and his writing. He was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1902 and went to Sewanee Military Academy, Exeter College in Oxford and Vanderbilt University.

Lytle helped to found the Southern Agrarian Movement in the early 1930s with eleven other well-known southern writers, poets, essayists, and novelists. They were major contributors to the revival of Southern Literature in the 1920s and 1930s now known as the Southern Renaissance.

"The Twelve Southerners" as they were called, valued many aspects of Southern culture and confronted the "widespread and rapidly increasing effects of modernity, urbanism, and industrialism on Southern culture and tradition" in the early '30s.

In this book, Lytle does pretty much what I try to do with my Web site which is explore each branch of his family tree and try to present who they were by looking at what they did.

I was hooked on the book as early as page three:
"If you don't know who you are or where you came from, you will find yourself at a disadvantage. The ordered slums of suburbia are made for the confusion of the spirit."
That's one of those sentences that are worth reading a few times. If I was going to get something tattooed on myself, that might be it.

In "A Wake for the Living," Lytle writes about many of his family's experiences during the decades leading up to The Civil War and then shares a lot of second-hand information told to him about being in and around Tennessee during the war.

I had many Tennessee ancestors who joined the Confederate army so his recounting of the 19th Tennessee Regiment on page 189 was especially interesting as it's possible it included my second great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Castellaw.
"The weather was almost unendurable. It rained ice. The surface of the roads froze. Snow fell, and the covering was slick as glass until the heavy wagon wheels broke through into the frigid slush beneath. In places the teams went down belly-deep, and Hood's barefooted infantry staggered through the freezing mud, sometimes up to their armpits. The jagged ice cut their frostbitten feet and smeared the way with blood, congealed enough in places to mark the ice. An ox, exhausted with work, fell by the side of the road; and before the blood could congeal, the desperate men had stripped his hide from his smoking body and tied it about their feet."
Dang, that's some good writing.

Lytle wrote many other books, several of which I have now ordered and plan to read the next time I am headed out looking for celebrities to stand close to.

"Bedford Forrest and His Critter Company" is considered one of the best works about the Civil War general Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Lytle spent the last 20 years living in his cabin on the grounds of the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly, not far from the campus of the University of the South. He died in 1995 at the age of 92.
Andrew Lytle Obit in The New York Times
December 15, 1995

Andrew Lytle, an author, critic, teacher and raconteur and the last of the 12 Southern writers who banded together in the 1920's to form the Agrarian movement, died on Tuesday at his cabin in Monteagle, Tenn. He was 92.

Although he was overshadowed by such Agrarians as Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson and Allen Tate, Mr. Lytle is considered to have more than earned his chapter in "I'll Take My Stand," their 1930 manifesto warning of the perils of industrialization and urbanization.

More so than the others, Mr. Lytle, whose essay, "The Hind Tit," was a paean to the small farm, actually lived the agrarian tradition. The only real farmer in the group, he ran a series of family-owned farms and tended a garden that supplied virtually all the produce for his table until he was well into his 80's.

As an author, Mr. Lytle was a writer's writer, one whose finely honed intricate tales tended to win more critical praise than popular acclaim. His first novel, "The Long Night" (1936), and "At the Moon's Inn" (1947) were both well received, but it is "The Velvet Horn," (1957) that is regarded as his masterpiece.
For more, visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent commentary! Andrew Lytle was one of the great social commentators and men of letters of our time, although he has not received the attention or scholarly praise he deserves. My friend Ben Alexander wrote a dissertation about him, and he had a great influence on many writers, including Flannery O'Connor.

    Lee Cheek