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Conversations with Robert Morgan by Randall Wilhelm and Jesse Graves

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Who do you get to put this book together?  Robert Morgan has published 30, yes, thirty, books. Not just poetry, stories, and novels, but non-fiction as well. Actually, Randall Wilhelm and Jesse Graves are the perfect pair of writers to do this, based on their deep and impressive familiarity with what could only be called Robert Morgan’s oeuvre. Jesse Graves, who grew up near Sharp’s Chapel, Tennessee, comes at this work with a real understanding, not just of Robert Morgan as a long-time Ivy League professor, but as a writer who grew up in a family without a car whose life was transformed when a bookmobile started coming to a church near the farm where he lived. Randall Wilhelm, in contrast, grew up on the Clemson University campus, but, like Graves, is a poet and literary scholar. O.K., you are still skeptical? These interviews span five decades! To begin with, Robert Morgan is one of the most scintillating conservationists I’ve ever talked with. I remember interviewing Robert Morgan decades ago, and when asked about his family, he gave me the birth and death dates of each member going back several generations and addressed the fascinating social class variations of his forbears. I mean, I have to look up the years that my mom and my dad died! Does Robert Morgan have the stories? Oh, yes, like his phone call from Oprah Winfrey telling him that she had selected his novel, Gap Creek. Is this a fun and fascinating book about a truly significant contemporary Appalachian and American writer? Indeed!

Jackson: University of Mississippi Press: 2019. 244 pages with an Index, Chronology, Additional Resources and Selected Bibliography. Trade paperback.