“I'm always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it's very shocking to the system.”
— Flannery O'Connor, who was born on this day in 1925
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.