If I make it back
[Will they follow?]
If I open the door
[Are you ready?]
Earth is unprepared
For the nightmares
Or should I stay
[Protect my home]
Not show them
But then you’ll never know
[The wonders I’ve seen]
—FS Opening Credits
“At first glance, Hal Bennett and my sister, Linda, would seem to have nothing in common. He is a writer– and as these stories clearly show, a very good one indeed– she is a housewife; he has lived and studied in Mexico, she in Italy; he knows the ghettos of our cities, she has long been a surbanite. Then, too, they differ in this respect: Hal is Black, my sister is White.
Yet they have one, great, common bond, and this immediately became obvious when they met for the first time last summer in what used to be the men’s bar of New York City’s Biltmore Hotel. Both Hal and Linda were born in Virginia, and though both have lived in the North for many years now, no place on earth do they love more dearly than the Old Dominion.
This is not to say Hal Bennett (or my sister) is blind to the bigotry that so long held Virginia— and the rest of the South– backward… But it is to say that, in spite of everything, for Black as well as for White, a love for this small part of the universe endures.
To say all this, however, may be misleading. Don’t get me wrong. Bennett is no sentimentalist, no Uncle Tom gone North and soft. The people he depicts and the world he describes would not be recognized by the Upstairs set. Bennett’s people are downstairs and often downtrodden. They are winos and whores, widows who love cockroaches and priests who love booze. They are often ignorant and mostly poor. They are, in short, part of the other America, the one we would prefer not to think about.
But Bennett makes you think, makes you care about his characters… In addition to creating marvelous and memorable characters, Bennett is a master at hatching bizarre plots;… most of all though, Hal Bennett’s stories contain a commodity that seems to be vanishing from the shelves of American fiction. They are fraught through and through with humor. True it is humor— satirical, sometimes sardonic, and often ironic. Still what a pleasure and what a surprise to find a writer among us these days who can laugh at the world and make his readers do so too. ” — Staige D. Blackford From the introduction to Hal Bennett’s brilliant short story collection INSANITY RUNS IN OUR FAMILY.
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