thinking about the country

Fotolia_1974925_XSJake Bittle at The Point:

One of the first big splashes in American fiction this year was Ben Metcalf’s Against the Country, a three-hundred-plus-page tirade against the rural South by the former literary editor of Harper’s. In this novel, a narrator who happens to write exactly like Ben Metcalf recounts his childhood and adolescence in Goochland County, a real county in Virginia that almost every reviewer of the book has assumed is fictional. In fire-and-brimstone sentences that go on for hundreds of words, the narrator rages against those who glorify life in the countryside. Targets include Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Boone and Henry David Thoreau, but most importantly the pseudo-Metcalf’s own parents, who move the family to Goochland with the hope that living close to nature will be enriching. As Metcalf shows, the move proves to be just the opposite: Goochland, he tells us, is the land “in whose dirt our national evil was gestated, and out of whose grass it sprung, and on whose stock it immediately fed” (the sentence goes on for four more clauses). Nature, which Metcalf sees as malevolent, sets the stage for the ignorance that many Northerners see at the heart of Southern culture. Goochland provides “annoyance and lack and trepidation,” Metcalf says, “and what more is asked for our violence to germinate and grow?”

more here.