Blood and Memory
5.5 x 8.5, 168 pp.
Pub Date: 05/15/2006
Price:        $24.95

Price:        $5.00


Published by Texas Review Press

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Blood and Memory

By Robert Benson

Robert Benson’s Blood and Memory is a wonderfully various memoir that combines family history, exact detail, lively anecdote, droll humor, sustained narrative, and wise reflection upon life’s vicissitudes and mysteries. It is a book that rewards reading of any kind. The reader will be repaid by picking up the book at any point and reading a piece at random; the dividends will be considerably greater for intensely engaging the work from beginning to end, for it is artfully shaped, not haphazardly assembled. Its pace is both quick and cumulative in force.

The author unfolds the story of his life in and out of the academy: his adventures and misadventures as son and husband and father; his forays as a hunter and his struggles with dogs and other creatures; his vocation as teacher and writer; his brushes with death as crises in his health occur; his meditations on our common mortality. Of particular interest now are the vivid accounts describing hurricanes in and around New Orleans during the late 1940s and early 50s.

All in all this dazzling work of reminiscence and reflection enriches and enhances our understanding of life’s pitfalls and possibilities. What more can any reader ask of an author?

ROBERT BENSON, a native of New Orleans, was educated at Vanderbilt University and the University of Southern Mississippi, Southeastern Louisiana University, the University of Dallas, and the University of Sewanee, Tennessee, where he teachers medieval English literature at the University of the South. He has published work on Chaucer, Andrew Lytle, John Donald Wade, Cormac McCarthy, J.F. Powers, and others, and he is a regular contributor to the periodical press, particularly to the Sewanee Review.

What Readers Are Saying:

“In Blood and Memory the story of the son annotates the story of the father. That is an old theme, in the literature of the South and elsewhere. Robert Benson handles it without sparing, pitying, or psycho-mythologically aggrandizing himself. The substance of his book is anecdotal; the tone is low-keyed and even-keeled. You may not at first realize how long a shadow death casts over it, and how that shadow, as it deepens and draws nearer, evokes its wisdom. Benson’s wisdom is a matter of empathy, detachment, a lucid acceptance of the bounty and harshness of life, and a rueful sort of modesty when it comes to himself. These are not qualities normally associated with our literary culture and our national character. His sanity seems instinctive, as do his stance and his voice. His contemplation of his own life unexpectedly brought into my mind a writer he apparently knows well enough to have utterly metabolized: Geoffrey Chaucer” --Franklin Burroughs

“Robert Benson’s collection of graceful, evocative, and unsentimental essays-reminiscent of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It-is a meditation on families, of how through them tragedy reaches across generations, and on the ways that personal frailty, strength, and redemption play out in our lives. Benson was raised in the tangle of time, place, culture, and nature that was the South during the 1940s and 1950s, then became a husband, father, hunter, volunteer fireman, and distinguished English professor. Blood and Memory ranges across the details of such things as youthful gun safety training, snake natural history, and heart surgery, as well as explores the deeper nuances of dog training, friendship, and love. In this quietly but hauntingly moving book, Benson’s narrative also steadily, convincingly builds to some central lingering truths, and in my view he gets it all right.” --Harry Greene, author of Snake: the Evolution of Mystery in Nature

“Blood and Memory cuts a long deep furrow through time and place. Robert Benson ploughs the rich black topsoil of family and digs into the clay beneath, turning up accounts of days sometimes hard but always well-lived. Snakes wind through the margins of Benson’s pages; a swamp spreads like an erasure; and a fishing pole dangles, its hook baited with sweet alluring words. Through signatures of essays years wander like a stream, sometimes eddying into deep pools, other times crashing and breaking, tossing father and friends onto a dry bank before racing forward. No landscape is more interesting that that of a life. This fine, celebratory book will make recollection flourish. Readers will pause and ponder the hills and gullies of their own days and when they finish Blood and Memory, they will sit silently for a moment then say, ‘Boy oh, boy.’” --Sam Pickering

“In Blood and Memory Robert Benson charts a Southern boy’s adventurous growing up. Out of experience and stories overheard, questions arise; but in revisiting lost time, he discovers understanding. In Benson’s vision memory is redemptive, both revealing and confirming life’s deeper meanings.” --Elizabeth Spencer


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