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The Untidy Pilgrim, The Untidy Pilgrim, 0817311432, 0-8173-1143-2, 978-0-8173-1143-8, 9780817311438,

The Untidy Pilgrim
by Eugene Walter

Quality Paper
2001. 264 pp.
978-0-8173-1143-8
Price:  $24.95 t

This classic coming-of-age novel, winner of the Lippincott Fiction
Prize for Young Novelists in 1954, is a deliberately comic portrayal of
"Mobile madness," a malady specific to the Gulf Coast but recognizable
by all.

Eugene Walter's first novel is about a young man from a small central
Alabama town who goes south of the "salt line" to Mobile to work in a bank
and study law.  As soon as this unnamed pilgrim arrives, he realizes
that--although he is still in Alabama—he has entered a separate physical
kingdom of banana trees and palm fronds, subtropical heat and humidity,
old houses and lacy wrought-iron balconies. In the "land of clowns" and
the "kingdom of monkeys"—in the town that can claim the oldest Mardi Gras
in America--there is no Puritan work ethic; the only ruling forces are those
of chaos, craziness, and caprice. Such forces overtake the pilgrim, seduce
him away from the beaten career path, and set him on a zigzag course through
life.

The Untidy Pilgrim celebrates the insularity
as well as the eccentricity of southerners—and Mobilians, in particular—in
the mid-20th century. Cut off from the national mainstream, they are portrayed
as devoid of that particularly American angst over what to "do" and accomplish
with one's life, and indulge instead in art, music, cooking, nature, and
love.  In this novel Walter eschews the "gloom and doom" southern
literary tradition established by Faulkner, Capote, and McCullers to illuminate
the joyous quirkiness of human existence.

In 1954 this refreshing approach to the southern
scene garnered the praise of the judges for that year's Lippincott Fiction
Prize, Jacques Barzun, Diana Trilling, and Bernard DeVoto. This reissue
of the paperback in The University of Alabama Press's Deep South Books
series assures yet another generation the delight of Eugene Walter's award-winning
romp through Mobile.


Eugene Walter was a renowned author, editor, gourmet cook, actor,
gardener, and translator. A Mobile native, he helped found the Paris Review
and the Transatlantic Review and won several literary awards, including
a Rockefeller-Sewanee Fellowship, an O. Henry citation, and the Prix Guilloux.
Monkey Poems (1953), The Byzantine Riddle (1980), and American Cooking:
Southern Style
(Time-Life, 1971) are among his best-known books. He died
in Mobile in 1998.

 


"A zanier bunch of characters has seldom been collected betweenthe covers of a novel. And yet, eccentric though they may be, itis impossible not to love them."
New York Times

"Superb, casual imagery . . . obviously, a novel for the sensitive."
Library Journal

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