The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981 Page: 368
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
of common, everyday people caught up in extraordinary circum-
stances. As the conclusion of the opening story says, "... there ain't no
such animal as a man that won't lie, given the right circumstances" (p.
31), or to summarize the piece entitled "Courting," "... a woman's
love is just like the morning dew, just as apt to fall on a horse biscuit as
it is a rose" (p. 95).
Storytelling is a highly developed art in certain relatively isolated,
culturally homogeneous communities. The dense forests, vast bogs, and
meandering rivers set much of East Texas apart from the rest of the
state. In this primeval and hauntingly beautiful setting, men and
women often turn to traditional storytelling patterns and motifs rather
than to academic literary pursuits in order to symbolize and structure
their everyday experiences.
Bill Brett is a native of this very culture, and he grew up hearing
those around him spin yarns about the people and the animals of the
region. He has filtered these familiar stories through his own individ-
ual sense of irony and suspense to recreate them on the printed page in
a highly readable form. Countless folklore collectors have transcribed
tape-recorded stories which are dull and emasculated in print because
they lack the subtleties of voice intonation, gesture, and facial expres-
sion-as well as the audience interaction which makes oral tales so
effective. Brett has captured this ambiance with his finely developed
but indirect characterizations. The denizens of the Piney Woods speak
for themselves in this book. Readers don't need to know, and probably
won't care, if Brett himself is the narrator or if he has merely adopted
the first person pronoun because such stories are characteristically pre-
sented in oral traditions as first person experiences to give them a sense
of immediacy and validity.
It is irrelevant which anecdotes the author actually experienced and
which ones he appropriated from others. What does matter is that all
of the tales ring true in both style and subject. Brett has accomplished
what the Grimm Brothers set out to do when they began to emend and
rewrite the oral tales they collected from rural peasants. But Brett has
gone one step further than the Grimms did, because he has preserved
more than just the text of what the storyteller said; he has recreated the
whole storytelling performance and mood. And that act of recreation
is, indeed, an art itself.
Texas AIM University
SYLVIA ANN GRIDER
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 84, July 1980 - April, 1981, periodical, 1980/1981; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101225/m1/416/: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.