Ernest Gaines was born on a plantation in Pointe Coupee Parish near New Roads, Louisiana, which is the Bayonne of all his fictional works. He is writer-in-residence emeritus at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In 1993 Gaines received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship for his lifetime achievements. In 1996 he was named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, one of France's highest decorations. He and his wife, Dianne, live in Oscar, Louisiana.
Ernest Gaines's A Lesson Before Dying, A Gathering of Old Men, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Bloodline, and Of Love and Dust are available in Vintage paperback.
Both scholars and general readers will embrace this eclectic new collection from National Book Critics Circle Award winner Gaines (A Lesson Before Dying), whose title refers to his belief that an artist should not value the classics more than the culture he comes from. The book includes some previously hard-to-find pieces and talks spanning 30 years, with several essays and a lengthy conversation focusing on Gaines's creative process. Born in Louisiana, Gaines credits his aunt with being his greatest influence. He greatly appreciates Joyce and 19th-century Russian literature and also comments on the impact of music and visual art on his writing while providing insight on his development as a writer. Five short stories appear as well: the previously unpublished "Christ Walked Down Market Street," his personal favorite; "Turtles," his first published story from 1956; and three other tightly wound and well-crafted gems. A slight tendency toward repetition does not diminish the book's overall merit. Recommended for academic and public libraries.-Stacy Shotsberger, California State Univ., Fullerton Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The artist "must deal with both God and the Devil," notes Gaines in this illuminating collection of short stories and "talks" on literature. Born (1933) and raised on a Louisiana plantation, Gaines (A Lesson Before Dying) attended college in California and fell in love with the works of Chekhov, Turgenev and Joyce. When he began to write, he realized that "the Russian steppes sounded interesting, but they were not the swamps of Louisiana.... I wanted to smell that Louisiana earth,... sit under the shade of one of those Louisiana oaks," and, especially, write about "the true relationship between whites and blacks-about the people I had known." And while Mozart and Haydn might inspire, "neither can... describe Louisiana State Prison at Angola as Leadbelly can." In his essays, Gaines shows how he explored his cultural influences like a jazz musician playing around a note until he achieved an appropriate artistic form for the truths he wanted to tell. The short stories, most published decades ago, further demonstrate that artistry. Fans of Gaines will appreciate these intimate glimpses into his literary methods, while readers yet to discover his art will find this a fine introduction. Author tour. (Oct. 7) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"Gaines is one of the nation's most important and prolific living writers and the greatest American writer of his generation to emerge from the South since William Faulkner." -The Atlanta Journal Constitution
"No one writes about mainstream, ordinary black life as well as Gaines does." -Ishmael Reed "Gaines reveals the constant doubts accompanying the artist's quest -- as well as the spirit spurring him forward." -The Christian Science Monitor "Words, wondrous and glorious words, burst from Ernest J. Gaines's heart and pen, describing the events and experiences that led to the publication of his renowned novels. . . . By the end, we feel as if we really know this Louisiana-loving, boundary-breaking author." -Southern Living