25 November 2009

Clifton, Tennessee: T. S. Stribling: Literary Landmarks of the Southern United States, #15

T. S. Stribling (1888–1965) was born in Clifton, Tennessee, and after short and unsucessful (because half-hearted) attempts at being a teacher and a lawyer, he soon took up writing. At first he only wrote short pulp fiction stories, and his first novel – The Cruise of the Dry Dock (1917) – is largely an extended version of these kind of stories. But his second novel, Birthright (1922), is a much more serious and mature work, which concerns an idealistic young man of mixed race who's straight out of Harvard, and who moves back home to the imaginary Hooker's Bend in Tennessee, where he meets the same racial prejudices. In the end he feels the necessity to move back north.

Stribling went on to write 'The Vaiden Trilogy', consisting of The Forge (1931), The Store (1932), and The Unfinished Cathedral (1934), of which the second novel won the Pulitzer Prize. This trilogy is set in Alabama from the beginning of the Civil War through to the 1920s, and the exploitation of blacks by whites is a major theme.

Stribling's two final novels, The Sound Wagon (1935) and These Bars of Flesh (1938) are set in Washington, D.C, and New York City respectively.

Stribling later returned to Clifton, Tennessee, where he died. This was his front porch.

Cliton Library above is a few hundred yards from the small town of Clifton, and now doubles as a small museum dedicated to T. S. Stribling. Opposite it is a fine view of the Tennessee River, where there is a marker stating 'Here the command of Bedford Forrest [a lieutenant general in the confederate army] twice crossed the river on the first west Tennessee raid Dec. 1862–Jan. 1893'.

We now travel about three hundred miles east, via specacular scenery, up and down Monteagle 'Mountain', with its lofty ear-popping ascent and descent with sand bunkers for runaway trucks, and through Chattanooga to a hotel in Cleveland, Tennessee, where we cool off before driving to Clayton, north Georgia, which is still in the mountains.

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