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A Summons to Memphisby Peter Taylor
Synopses & Reviews
One of the most celebrated novels of its time, the Pulitzer Prize winner A Summons to Memphis introduces the Carver family, natives of Nashville, residents, with the exception of Phillip, of Memphis, Tennessee.
During the twilight of a Sunday afternoon in March, New York book editor Phillip Carver receives an urgent phone call from each of his older, unmarried sisters. They plead with Phillip to help avert their widower father's impending remarriage to a younger woman. Hesitant to get embroiled in a family drama, he reluctantly agrees to go back south, only to discover the true motivation behing his sisters' concern. While there, Phillip is forced to confront his domineering siblings, a controlling patriarch, and flood of memories from this troubled past.
Peter Taylor is one of the masters of Southern literature, whose work stands in the company of Eudora Welty, James Agee, and Walker Percy. In A Summons to Memphis, he composed a richly evocative story of revenge, resolution, and redemption, and gave us a classic work of American literature.
"One could easily phrase a fitting subtitle for this novel: The Memoirs of a Sane Man. Other current American writers have at times shared Taylor's interest in the Reasonable Man — Bellow and Updike come to mind — but no one, I think, has more finely illuminated a self secure in its sanity. A Summons to Memphis is the long and nearly uninterrupted monologue of its protagonist, Tennessee expatriate Phillip Carver, recounting the trials of his family. Also, it is a tale of revenge, for Phillip's spinster sisters have summoned him home to help prevent the remarriage of their elderly father, the man whose willfulness has circumvented their own happiness. Inherent in both the monologue and the revenge tale is the lure of the solipsistic and the grotesque, yet one can sense Taylor deliberately eschewing these temptations. Sanity is seldom the raw material for an engaging novel, but in the deft hands of Peter Taylor, it provides the matter for a minor masterpiece. Read A Summons to Memphis for a sense of the world as, for its survival, the world must be." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
"We finish the novel feeling we've not only come to know his characters, but also come to share their inner truths." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"A Summons to Memphis is like a leisurely port wine sipped slowly and with pleasure beneath a blackjack oak." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A beautiful ironic novel. Peter Taylor's fiction is full of rewards." The New York Times Book Review
"Something of a miracle....[A Summons to Memphis] is a work that manages to summarize and embody its author's entire career." The Washington Post Book World
About the Author
Peter Taylor was born in Tennessee in 1917. He was the author of seven books of stories, including The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor, A Long Fourth, In the Miro District and Other Stories and The Old Forest and Other Stories (which won the Pen/Faulkner Award for fiction in 1985); three novels including A Summons to Memphis (which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1987); and three books of plays. Mr. Taylor taught at Harvard University, the University of North Carolina, and Kenyon College, from which he graduated in 1940. Before his death in 1994, he was Commonwealth Professor of English at the University of Virginia.
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