Stories of Old South; The Collected Stories of Caroline Gordon. Introduction by Robert Penn Warren. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc. 350 pp. $10.95.

In this collection one can see how a story speaks for its creator's sense of literary timelessness. Many of these stories were published in the 1930s, and, like Faulkner's stories, they speak of a ruined civilization now barely visible to us - the Old South. But the tales are not merely reports on the demise of a culture. They are records of the struggles of the human spirit to survive.

The nonflowery description of a woman's suffering in one story is significant because it's presented from the point of view of a man. And here is a clue to Gordon's lasting appeal, since very few women writers have created believable, sensitive men. Ms. Gordon is one of the few who have. Also in her writing, violence is dealt with beneath the surface and not experienced outright. It's perhaps a sad remark on our own day if occasionally these stories strike us as too gentle.

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