Preview of “I have been so many people”: A Study of Lee Smith’s Novels

In honor of the impending release of University Press of North Georgia’s newest monograph, “I have been so many people”: A Study of Lee Smith’s Novels by Tanya Long Bennett, PhD, we have posted an excerpt from the book below. We hope you will join us for the book launch party on July 1st at 7:00 pm at the Vickery House in Dahlonega. Please click here for directions and details.

[Excerpt from“I have been so many people”: A Study of Lee Smith’s Novels by Tanya Long Bennett, PhD]

I Have Been Cover Image

Chapter Five
The Protean Ivy in Fair and Tender Ladies

Having introduced an element of metafiction into her body of novels with Oral History, Lee Smith has employed this postmodern strategy in several works since, to emphasize humanity’s common practice of creating ourselves by way of narrative. Ivy Rowe, the captivating protagonist of Smith’s epistolary novel Fair and Tender Ladies (1988), writes her letters for a number of reasons. She uses them to communicate important news, to “keep in touch” (82) with family and friends, and to record events and feelings. Beyond these functions, however, Ivy’s letters serve as a mirror in which she can see herself, through which she can better understand herself. This self is not a permanent or static self, revealed to her bit by bit in her letters. Rather, it is a fluid self, comprising many identities; as Ivy writes late in life to her daughter Joli, “I have been so many people” (266). Although as a Southern, Appalachian woman, Ivy experiences pressure from a number of dominant ideological influences, she resists absolute definition by any one of these ideologies. This is not to say that Ivy is immune to the pressures they exert on her; certainly, her expressions often echo the terms of those ideologies. However, in the end, Ivy’s identity is too protean to be fixed by any particular system. This fluidity results in large part from Ivy’s habit of deconstructing, through her letters, systems which threaten to entrap her.

You can preorder your copy of “I have been so many people”: A Study of Lee Smith’s Novels here.