Gogol, Dolly, and George Sessions Perry

Western book stack

Until recently, I’d never heard of George Sessions Perry (1910–1956), even though for the past several years I’ve made my way to his hometown of Rockdale, Milam County, Texas to eat barbeque and attend rodeos. Sessions was a writer, mostly of fiction, and most notably for his 1942 novel Hold Autumn in Your Hand, a book which tells the story of a white tenant farmer family in the central-eastern portion of the Lone Star State.

There is a moment in the novel’s sixth chapter that particularly stands out: a scene where a family wants to send their daughter to school on a cold and rainy morning until they realize she has no coat. What follows is a three-page description of how the daughter’s coat comes to be produced—a scene somewhat moving in its intentions, somewhat sappy in its melodrama––somewhat reminiscent of the rugged practicalities behind the madness of the protagonist in Nikolai Gogol’s 1842 short story “Шинель” (“The Overcoat”), and yet also somewhat resembling the soft sentimentality running through the narrator of Dolly Parton’s ballad of a “Coat of Many Colors” (1971).

But it was a scene that made reading the book worthwhile, and I now find myself curious to encounter what else Perry wrote about.


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