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Ernest J. Gaines, the author of many acclaimed works of fiction, including The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Gathering of Old Men, was born in 1933 in the small south Louisiana town of Oscar. In his childhood the center of his world was the old slave quarters on the River Lake Plantation, where five generations of his family lived. All of Gaines’s books have been set in this general area of Louisiana, and though none of his work is strictly autobiographical, his writing bears the distinctive stamp of the rural folk culture amid which he was raised. Marcia Gaudet and Carl Wooton’s Porch Talk with Ernest Gaines is a collection of interviews conducted on the porch of Gaines’s home in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he is writer-in-residence at the University of Southwestern Louisiana. Gaines talks about a variety of topics, including the influence of other writers—among them Faulkner, Hemingway, and Mark Twain—on his style and the importance of oral tradition and folk culture to his writing. He discusses the major themes of his work, such as survival with dignity and the search for manhood, and he describes the relationships among the black, Creole, and Cajun communities of south Louisiana and how they have been portrayed in his fiction. Gaines also comments on the craft of writing, his role as a teacher, the film versions of some of his books, his relationships with his agent and editors, and his work in progress. This is the first book-length work on Gaines to be published. It will be of importance to scholars and students of American literature, particularly southern and Afro-American literature, because it gives the reader valuable insights into Gaines’s life and writing. The format and conversational tone of the book will also appeal to the audience drawn to Gaines’s fiction.
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