Thursday, May 29, 2008

Southern Writers

I have been working on Look Homeward, Angel over the past couple weeks and find myself asking the question, "Why do Southern writers seem to always write about the dregs of Southern culture?" Erskine Caldwell wins the prize (at least thus far) in making Southerners look like a bunch of inbred freaks, but Faulkner wasn't far behind him. And I have to admit, though I am held in awe by his use of language, even Wolfe spends much of his time crawling around in the slop bucket of the culture. If many people have read this stuff there is no wonder everyone thinks we are a sub-human species.

Perhaps I am sheltered, but the South that they are writing about intersects with mine almost nowhere. Sure, there is plenty enough dysfunction in my life and in the lives of many of my friends, but I guess one of the big parts of being Southern is that we don't talk about that so much. I wish that there were more Southern novelists that approached the region more like Don Williams did in his music. Perhaps I am just looking for someone who will portray the South through the eyes of a child. (Even though Thomas Wolf's main character was a child, he was a precocious one that understood more than he should have!)

I suppose that there are some that manage to write about the South that I am more familiar with. Truman Capote's story "A Christmas Memory" comes a lot closer to what I am looking for. And even though he can be critical of the South and its attitudes, Mark Twain captures some of the goodness of it too. The Education of Little Tree by Forrest Carter is also pretty fair in its treatment of the South and Appalachian culture.

Perhaps it is time for me to write the great American novel. I wish I had started 18 months ago. By now I might have been finished! The trick is writing something that is distinctively Southern and complimentary that still has enough of a crisis to drive the plot. I have actually been ruminating on an idea that may be robust enough to work. Now I need to do a little planning so that putting pen to paper - or in this case fingers to keyboard - won't be so daunting.

I have more practical book ideas too that would require some creative writing as well. I have started on one already, but it was put aside in the activity of real estate survival, and I haven't picked it back up. Yes, it may be time to do something with these ideas.

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