Academic journal article The Southern Literary Journal

Guy Owen, 1925-1981

Academic journal article The Southern Literary Journal

Guy Owen, 1925-1981

Article excerpt

When Guy Owen died in July 1981, Southern literature lost one of its most talented practitioners. Owen's novels enjoyed popular and critical esteem; one was made into a successful movie, another was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His natural gift for telling a story was enhanced by critical and historical sophistication gained as a student and teacher. He modestly listed only modern poetry and Southern literature as his specialties, but in fact his college work (all done at Chapel Hill, where he received three degrees) covered the complete spectrum of genres and periods. He wrote a fine dissertation on "The Dramatic Satire of Thomas Middleton," and, when he invented his own modern flim-flam man, he was exploiting not only his familiarity with a real type of crook in his native North Carolina but also his knowledge of such characters in folklore and in the literature of other nations and other ages. Such a combination of first-hand fidelity to local truth and refined book-learning certainly contributed to the sense of depth and amplitude in his fiction.

Owen wrote some poems himself, and he was an heroic champion of poetry as a precious and living institution. With little assistance, and often against discouraging odds, he ran the best poetry magazine in the South and one of the best in the country; it began as Impetus when he was teaching at Stetson University and later became the Southern Poetry Review, which, for most of its flourishing time, he edited while teaching at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. …

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