"AN EXTRAORDINARY WRITER—A TRUE AND ABSOLUTELY ORIGINAL AMERICAN VOICE": PRESENTATION FIRST EDITIONS OF ALL THREE NOVELS IN RAYMOND ANDREWS' AWARD-WINNING MUSKHOGEAN TRILOGY, EACH UNIQUELY INSCRIBED BY HIM
(ANDREWS, BENNY) ANDREWS, Raymond. (MUSKHOGEAN TRILOGY) Appalachee Red. Rosiebelle Lee Wildcat Tennessee. Baby Sweet's. With Illustrations by Benny Andrews. New York: Dial, 1978, 1980, 1983. Three volumes. Octavo, original half brown, half tan, half green cloth, original dust jackets. $2200.
First edition of each novel in Raymond Andrews' famed yet elusive Muskhogean Trilogy, each a presentation copy inscribed by him, featuring his inaugural novel, Appalachee Red. winner of the first James Baldwin Prize, inscribed on the half title, "To K— H— All the Best Always, plus a day, Raymond Andrews, 3-19-79," along with the second novel, Rosiebelle Lee Wildcat Tennessee, inscribed by him in the year of publication, "To T— All the Best Ray Andrews 6-8-80," and the concluding novel, Baby Sweet's, also inscribed in the year of publication by him, "To A Special Friend, S— May your forthcoming book… and all the rest of them… be read, read, read, read… Ray 8-2-83," each work containing numerous full-page illustrations by his brother, renowned artist Benny Andrews. An exceptional inscribed set, rarely found together.
African American novelist Raymond Andrews, the son of Georgia sharecroppers, won the prestigious first James Baldwin Prize for his first novel, Appalachee Red. It became the anchor for his acclaimed Muskhogean Trilogy, which included Rosiebelle Lee Wildcat Tennessee (1980) and Baby Sweet's (1983). "Andrews' unique style owes a great deal to the cadences of rural southern speech…there are echoes of the southern folk preacher, the streetwise badman… the folk wisdom of elderly Black women who pass on their knowledge to the younger African American girls, and the rhythms of jazz and blues music." This outstanding trilogy about the fictional Georgia county of Muskhogean "is imbibed with Andrews' characteristic knack for storytelling" and vibrant characters who "find their own voices through his exuberant prose… these are real people, living their lives with no apologies" (Oxford Companion to African American Literature, 17-18).
On publication Appalachee Red won quick praise as a "big and startling work… its nearest affinities are with Black oral tradition, Faulkner and Twain" (Chicago Tribune), and its successor, Rosiebelle Lee Wildcat Tennessee, was hailed as the work of "an extraordinary writer—a true and absolutely original American voice" (Publishers Weekly). The trilogy's concluding novel, Baby Sweet's, was also singled out by critics who called it "a pleasure to read… a novel chanted to achieve the feeling of blues." Throughout the triology, Andrews' prose is "steeped in the sensibility of the tall tale, of oral storytelling" (New York Times). Each contains original illustrations by his brother, Benny Andrews, "A major force in the art world," he is famed for works that are "tough, witty, provocative and always compelling… exemplary of his incisive wit, unflinching eye and compassionate vision. Like his contemporaries Faith Ringgold and Romare Bearden, Benny Andrews draws from the rich repository that is Black American culture." His images, like his brother's writings, are rooted in his background as a sharecropper's son, and have become "an instrument of Black memory" (Collage of Benny Andrews, 5, 19). An activist as well as artist, in 1969 he "established the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC),", which targeted major museums to protest "the exclusion of racial and ethnic minorities from exhibitions and employment, and the under-representation of women" (Patton, African-American Art, 191). First editions, first printings: each with "First Printing" on the copyright page. Each dust jacket features a color illustration by Benny Andrews. Appalachee Red with his frontispiece and 14 full-page illustrations; Rosiebelle Lee Wildcat Tennessee with his frontispiece and 13 full-page illustrations; Baby Sweet's with his frontispiece and 15 full-page illustrations.
A fine inscribed set of Andrews' exceedingly scarce trilogy.