18 July 2015

A Grateful Southern Writer

William Faulkner
In my bio, I never refer to myself as a historian, but rather a "Southern writer" who happens to "focus on the War Between the States and Virginia history." That's truly not some type of phony humility. I've never been comfortable with the title "historian" and have even had my publisher delete that reference. I have no academic credentials in the field of history, so I just think that's the more honest approach. That being said, one can certainly obtain some credibility by self-study and accomplishment. I trust I've done that, at least to some small degree.

But "Southern writer" is certainly a designation of which one can be proud. And I am, as well as grateful. Providence has been kind. So it is with interest and curiosity that I came across an article recently titled, Southern Writers: Why We Love Them.

The piece mentions a number of the great Southern writers, such as Faulkner and Twain, but the explanation as to "why" Southern writers are so popular is worth thinking about - especially for non-Southerners. Consider this observation:
It’s no easy matter to make writers hear the words you write as though they’ve just been spoken in a certain time and place. When Mark Twain writes as Jim in Huckleberry Finn, we can hear the older black man as he sputters, “De bes’ way is to res’ easy en let de ole man take his own way. Dey’s two angels hoverin roun’ ’bout him.”  Huck, too, is given a voice with, “it warn’t no time to be sentimentering,” and the like.  Working dialect as a writer is an art form, and it isn’t for the faint of heart.
And this:
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Southern writers is that their books and plays withstand the tests of time.  It’s why To Kill a Mockingbird is still assigned in almost every high school in America, and why your teenage daughter will enjoy Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo every bit as much as you do.    It is why we still know the titles True Grit and The Red Badge of Courage.  The lessons they contain still hold true, today, as they did twenty years ago, and as they will twenty years from now.  That’s transcendence.  It’s also staying power.

I certainly will never be counted among these legends, but just feeling the kinship of "Southerness" is reward enough.

You can read the article here.

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