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Madison (Percy Jones Jr.) Biography

Madison Jones comments:

Nationality: American. Born: Nashville, Tennessee, 1925. Education: Vanderbilt University, Nashville, A.B. 1949; University of Florida, Gainesville, 1950-53, A.M. 1951. Military Service: Served in the United States Army in the Corps of Military Police, Korea, 1945-46. Career: Farmer in Cheatham County, Tennessee, 1940s; instructor in English, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 1953-54, and University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1955-56. Member of the Department of English from 1956, writer-in-residence, 1967-87, and professor of English, 1968-87, Auburn University, Alabama; now emeritus. Member: Alabama Academy of Distiguished Authors; Fellowship of Southern Writers. Awards: Sewanee Review fellowship, 1954; Alabama Library Association Book award, 1968; Rockefeller fellowship, 1968; Guggenheim fellowship, 1973; Lytle prize, for short fiction, 1992. Agent: Harold Matson Company, Inc., 276 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10001.



The Innocent. New York, Harcourt Brace, and London, Secker andWarburg, 1957.

Forest of the Night. New York, Harcourt Brace, 1960; London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1961.

A Buried Land. New York, Viking Press, and London, Bodley Head, 1963.

An Exile. New York, Viking Press, 1967; London, Deutsch, 1970; as I Walk the Line, New York, Popular Library, 1970.

A Cry of Absence. New York, Crown, 1971; London, Deutsch, 1972.

Passage through Gehenna. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State UniversityPress, 1978.

Season of the Strangler. New York, Doubleday, 1982.

Last Things. Baton Rouge, Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

To the Winds. Atlanta, Georgia, Longstreet Press, 1996.

Nashville 1864: The Dying of the Light: A Novel. Nashville, J.S. Sanders, 1997.

Uncollected Short Stories

"The Homecoming," in Perspective (St. Louis), Spring 1952.

"Dog Days," in Perspective (St. Louis), Fall 1952.

"The Cave," in Perspective (St. Louis), Winter 1955.

"Home Is Where the Heart Is," in Arlington Quarterly (Texas), Spring 1968.

"A Modern Case," in Delta Review (Memphis, Tennessee), August1969.

"The Fugitives," in Craft and Vision, edited by Andrew Lytle. New York, Delacorte Press, 1971.

"The Family That Prays Together Stays Together," in Chattahoochee Review (Dunwoody, Georgia), Winter 1983.

"A Beginning," in Homewords, edited by Douglas Paschall. Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 1986.

"Zoo," in Sewanee Review, Summer 1992.

"Before the Winds Came," in Oxford American (Oxford, Mississippi), Winter 1994.


History of the Tennessee State Dental Association. Nashville, Tennessee Dental Association, 1958.


Film Adaptations:

I Walk the Line, 1970, from the novel An Exile.

Manuscript Collections:

Emory University, Atlanta; Auburn University, Alabama.

Critical Studies:

By Ovid Pierce, in New York Times Book Review, 4 July 1971; Joseph Cantinella, in Saturday Review (New York), 9 July 1971; Reed Whittemore, in New Republic (Washington, D.C.), July 1971; Separate Country by Paul Binding, London and New York, Paddington Press, 1979; interview, in Southern Quarterly (Hattiesburg, Mississippi), Spring 1983; in The History of Southern Literature edited by Louis Rubin, Louisiana State University Press, 1986.

Generally, on a more obvious level, my fiction is concerned with the drama of collision between past and present, with emphasis upon the destructive elements involved. More deeply, it deals with the failure, or refusal, of individuals to recognize and submit themselves to inevitable limits of the human condition.

* * *

There is a homogeneity of theme that links together into a coherent body the published fiction of Madison Jones. The setting of these books is invariably Jones's native south. But whether their time be late eighteenth-century settlement days or the region's more recent past, his unvarying song is abstraction, ideology, and its consequences. The Innocent, his first novel, set in rural Tennessee immediately after the coming of modernity, treats of the attempts by a young southerner, Duncan Welsh, to repent of earlier impiety and reestablish himself upon inherited lands in inherited ways. The enterprise is a failure because of Duncan's deracinated preconception of it. Welsh "sets up a grave in his house." Soon he and his hopes are buried in another.

A Cry of Absence again focuses on a fatal archaist, a middle-aged gentlewoman of the 1960s who is anything but innocent. Hester Glenn finds an excuse for her failures as wife, mother, and person in a self-protective devotion to the tradition of her family. But when her example proves, in part, responsible for her son's sadistic murder of a black agitator, Hester is driven to know herself and, after confession, to pay for her sins with suicide.

A kind of Puritanism distorts Mrs. Glenn. In The Innocent the error is a perversion of the Agrarianism of Jones's mentors (Lytle, Davidson). But in his other novels the informing abstractions are not so identifiably southern. Jones's best, A Buried Land, is set in the valley of the Tennessee River during the season of its transformation. Percy Youngblood, the heir of a stern hill farmer (and a central character who could be any young person of our century), embraces all of the nostrums we associate with the futurist dispensation. He attempts to bury the old world (represented by a girl who dies aborting his child) under the waters of the TVA; but its truths (and their symbol) rise to haunt him back into abandoned modes of thought and feeling. In An Exile Hank Tawes, a rural sheriff, is unmanned by a belated explosion of passion for a bootlegger's daughter. His error has no date or nationality, but almost acquires the force of ideology once Tawes recognizes that, because he followed an impulse to recover his youth, his "occupation's gone." Forest of the Night tests out an assumption almost as generic, the notion that man is inherently good. An interval in the Tennessee "outback" is sufficient to the disabusement of Jonathan Cannon. There is no more telling exposé of the New Eden mythology.

In all of Jones's fiction there operates an allusive envelope embodied in a concrete action and supported by an evocative texture. That action is as spare as it is archetypal; and in every case its objective is to render consciousness. Jones is among the most gifted of contemporary American novelists, a craftsman of tragedy in the great tradition of his art.

—M.E. Bradford

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