Wednesday, December 3, 2008
And so I finished reading Brideshead Revisited, and I stand, with so many of you, in awe of it: the miracle of its structure, its graceful folding in and out of time and perspective, its flawless sentences and interesting words. A masterpiece, as countless many before me have said.
I turned, then, to Serena, the new Ron Rash novel that is getting such play on best of the year lists, and what do I find but a fictional recreation of my great-grandfather, Horace Kephart, of whom I have written in this blog before. A troubled soul, a brilliant librarian, who left his wife and children following a calamitous breakdown and who never truly returned to them. Went off, instead, to the Great Smoky Mountains, where he studied the people and wrote books about them, where he refined his campcraft and wrote books on that, too, where he became a mayor, where he loved nature with supreme erudition. Toward the end of his life, my great-grandfather fought with others to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and whatever else you might wish to say or think about him, he helped save part of the world for the rest of us.
In any case, Kephart is here in Rash's book, and from what I can tell, Rash has not made a pretty figure of him—attributed thoughts and deeds to him that might be hard for a Kephart such as myself to swallow. An interesting choice, I think, to use Kephart's name and work while fictionalizing his character.
But I'll read on and report more fully when I'm done.