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Brainard Cheney (1900-1990) was a little known author of Georgia associated primarily with the literary movement known as Agrarianism. Originally from Fitzgerald, located in the wiregrass region of south central Georgia, Cheney had a writing career that covered four decades. He published four novels--Lightwood (1939), River Rogue (1942), This Is Adam (1958), and Devil's Elbow (1969)—-that depict the marring of Agrarian ideals by the social transformation of south Georgia between 1870 and 1960. Ultimately, these novels demonstrate the negative impact of unfettered capitalism, Reconstruction, and northern exploitation on south Georgia.

Cheney attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and there became friends with many of the Fugitives and Agrarian writers. He took courses under John Crowe Ransom and shared a room with Robert Penn Warren. He and his wife Francis frequently entertained Caroline Gordon and Allen Tate at their home, Idler's Retreat. After Vanderbilt, he became involved in journalism and politics, working for the Nashville Banner from 1925 to 1942, and later as public relations director for Tennessee governor Frank G. Clement from 1952 to 1958. He later penned the governor's address at the 1956 Democratic National Convention ("How long oh Lord, how long..."), as well as assisting Robert Penn Warren with some of the speeches included in his novel, All the King's Men.

Later in life, Cheney began to correspond and share ideas with renowned Georgia author Flannery O'Connor. He returned to Georgia in the early 1980s to celebrate a reprinting of his first two novels and the Altamaha R.A.F.T. festival, Restoring Altamaha Folk Traditions. For the festival, Cheney piloted a reconstructed timber raft all the way to the coast at Darien, Georgia. Cheney died in 1990 at the age of eighty-nine. His wife died in 1996, also at the age of eighty-nine.

Cheney's novels reveal his desire for a return to a more simplistic way of life, one founded on natural cycles and rooted in an appreciation of the land. His tragic characters often go astray by attempting to urbanize themselves or betray their own way of life. In his work, redemption can only be achieved by a return to a farm or a religious conversion, as in Devil's Elbow.



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