southern writers

“Needless to say, the South is a large place, with many voices and with a long tradition of wild and fantastic fiction … What I’m learning, slowly, is that I don’t need to impose any ideas about the South onto my stories. The South, at least as I experience it, will bubble up on its own.”

An interview with Thomas Pierce on his debut collection of short stories, Hall of Small Mammals.

Literary Arts: Flannery O’Connor 3 Ounce
The 30th stamp in the Literary Arts series honors Flannery O’Connor (1925–1964), who crafted unsettling and darkly comic stories and novels about the potential for enlightenment and grace in what seem like the worst possible moments. The color portrait on this stamp, a watercolor painting completed digitally, is based on a black-and-white photograph taken when O’Connor was a student at the Georgia State College for Women from 1942 to 1945. Surrounding O’Connor are peacock feathers, a symbol often associated with the author. The words “THREE OUNCE” on this stamp indicate its usage value. These Forever stamps will always be equal in value to the applicable price for the price category printed on them, at the time of use. The 93 cent Forever stamp will be issued June 5 in McLean, VA, at the NAPEX Stamp Show. Art director Phil Jordan of Falls Church, VA, designed the stamp with artwork by Sam Weber of Brooklyn, NY. (©2015USPS)

A new stamp honors Southern writer Flannery O’Connor.


SoLost: At Home with William Gay

Oops! My latest SoLost piece about the elusive Southern writing great William Gay posted about a week ago and I completely forgot to put it up on the blog. Correcting that now. Video above.

I blogged a bit about the trip to see him in April and you can read that here.

Here’s the description of the video piece:

These days, much-adored writers seem to enjoy the grind of publicity, embarking on endless interviews and fielding star-struck audiences. Tennessee-based author William Gay is not one of those. Despite having a few critically lauded books under his belt, one of which became a feature film starring Hal Holbrook, Gay seldom agrees to be photographed or filmed. We’d heard he lives in a cabin in secluded Hohenwald, Tennessee, and that he occasionally accepts visitors—so we couldn’t resist stopping by to see for ourselves.

Needless to say, he let us in and even showed us around, and we discovered that his rustic homestead is charming in its straightforwardness—much like his stories. We learned about his tree house, his connection to Hohenwald, and how, one time, Bob Dylan managed to come between him and his girlfriend.

Here, have a rare glimpse into William Gay’s world.

Hope you like it…

“I have never insisted violently on my Southerness, as a writer, because being a Southerner is for me quite literally as natural as breathing. But just the same if there is going to be an all-Southern number I almost feel like insisting that I must be in it.” 

- Katherine Anne Porter, on the prospect of being included in the April 1935 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review which featured “The Grave.”

Read “The Grave” for free tomorrow at Recommended Reading.

Flannery O'Conner with her peacock

July 1962–Flannery O’Connor on crutches, with one of her peacocks in Milledgeville, Georgia. In 1951, O’Connor was diagnosed with Lupus and returned to Andalusia where she took care of various species of birds. In a 1961 essay entitled “The King of the Birds” she writes about her peacocks and you can see peacocks images in many of her books.

photo by Joe McTyre

I like to classify Southern eccentrics into two groups: Eudora Welty eccentric or Flannery O’Connor eccentric. If you are a Welty eccentric, your sister is called something like Cattie Paw because her name is Katherine and she walks quietly. If you are O’Connor eccentric, your sister is called Trampasaurus Oceanus because she gets around during Fleet Week. Welty eccentrics may leave a family dinner to go sit in the woods and sketch lichen. O’Connor eccentrics leave a family dinner after announcing they’ve ended the affair with the Methodists’ choir director to move to Hilton Head with the Piggly Wiggly produce manager and his spiritual guru.
American men are allotted just as many tears as American women. But because we are forbidden to shed them, we die long before women do, with our hearts exploding or our blood pressure rising or our livers eaten away by alcohol because that lake of grief inside us has no outlet. We, men, die because our faces were not watered enough.
—  Pat Conroy
Southern Girl in Northern Lands

Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years.  The minute-winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every moment is a window on all time.

This is a moment:

Look Homeward Angel, Thomas Wolfe

Last week I went home for 10 days to the Carolinas.  Most time being spent in Raleigh, I feel inspired to record things that are leading me to revisit my hometown - though the “revisit” is only in my mind.  The more time I spend out of the south - out of North Carolina - the more I understand Thomas Wolfe and his ideas, his writing.

So here we go.  A tumblr. where I can ruminate on my heritage and all the beautiful things it taught and offered me.