The OF Blog: Southern Writing

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Southern Writing

As I have stated on a few occasions here over the past several years, I am a Southerner, one whose family has resided (one branch) since the time just before the failed State of Franklin (or for thousands of years through other branches).  I love the climate, the terrain, some of the people, little of its politics, but am fascinated by the cultures that have emerged over the past few hundred years in my native region.

One of the cultural things I enjoy most (besides the cooking) is Southern Literature.  For a region that (unfairly, most of the time) gets derided for its relative lack of education (sometimes voiced by those Yanks who have little conception of their own cultures), the American South certainly has produced some of the finest writers in American or World Literature.  William Faulkner, who not only was a Nobel Prize winner but also an inspiration for the Latin American Boom Generation.  Thomas Wolfe, whose autobiographical novels are so poignant in places that the heart feels as though it might break.  Flannery O'Connor, who grabs the religious-tinted fatalism of this region by its short and curlies and shakes it until something tragically moving is produced.  Robert Penn Warren, whose fictionalization of the King Fish is still relevant today.  Cormac McCarthy, who before he wrote of the West wrote of Tennessee and the South.  Kate Chopin, whose stories and novels revealed some stark, unsettling truths.  Mark Twain, whose The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn very well may have changed the course of American Literature.  Tennessee Williams, one of the greatest American playwrights.  Margaret Mitchell, whose Gone with the Wind may be both a blessing and curse for outsiders trying to understand the "Old South."  Zora Neale Hurston, whose Their Eyes Were Watching God may be the most famous African-American Southern novel.  Harper Lee, who only wrote one novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, but that novel still moves people over a half-century later.  Edward P. Jones, whose The Known World contains some very bitter truths about a horrid past.  Daniel Wallace, the author of Big Fish, which derives its power from the storytelling for which the South is renowned. 

So many authors have come from the quarter so often neglected or belittled by outsiders.  Since late spring and summer are so often associated with this region (the climate can be unpleasant for Yanks unused to humidity levels being as high as the temperatures), perhaps it might be fitting if I were to re(read) and write occasional reviews by several well-known Southern writers.  Maybe some can see the fantastic or speculative in these writings, or mayhap there'll be some moving character plays to consider.  Hopefully, there will be much for you to discover that has been produced in my native region.

P.S.  As I was contemplating writing this essay, I learned there is a special e-book charity anthology edited by T.J. McIntyre called Southern Fried Weirdness:  Reconstruction.  All proceeds from this $2.99 reprint anthology are going to the Red Cross and its efforts to help the victims of the April tornadoes in Alabama, Tennessee, and I believe Georgia and Mississippi.  I've already bought my copy and perhaps in the next few weeks, I'll have a review up here.


Brian Lindenmuth said...

You could also try newer stuff like works by Larry Brown, Daniel Woodrell, Harry Crews, Frank Bill, Pinckney Benedict, Kyle Minor, Joe Lansdale, Tom Franklin, Frank Turner Hollon (just to name a few).

You may find Hollon's The God File an interesting book and Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter from last year is just sublime.

Lsrry said...

I'll look into these writers after I get paid this weekend. Thanks!

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