Before Shelby Foote under took his epic history of the Civil War, he wrote this fictional chronicle -- "a landscape in narrative" -- of Jordan County, Mississippi, a place where the traumas of slavery, war, and Reconstruction are as tangible as rock formations. The seven stories in Jordan County move backward in time, from 1950 to 1797, and through the lives of characters as diverse as a black horn player doomed by tuberculosis and convulsive jealousy, a tormented and ineffectual fin-de-siecle aristocrat, and a half-wild frontiersman who builds a plantation in Choctaw territory only to watch it burn at the close of the Civil War. In prose of almost Biblical gravity; and with a deep knowledge of the ways in which history shapes human lives -- and sometimes warps them beyond repair -- Foote gives us an ambitious, troubling work of fiction that builds on the traditions of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor but that is resolutely unique.
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June 02, 1992
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