Monday, May 01, 2006

Writers in the South

Rod Dreher thinks he knows why the South produces good writers:
Think of all the material! I just got this from my old pal Thomas, a fellow Louisiana native:

My father’s dachshund (Huey, named after Huey Long) was going to turn 16 in June. My folks had to put him down on Friday for a number of health reasons but there is such a nugget of humor in this that I had to share. Mother informed me that they buried Huey with a can of Miller Lite (his preferred beer) and positioned him facing East. Do you suspect other families have “flavor” such as this?


Well, my late Uncle Murphy once won a tombstone off an undertaker in a bourre' game. Guy couldn't pay him, so he gave Murphy a tombstone made to order. It had Murphy's name, date of birth, and the epitaph Murphy selected for himself. Murphy put it on his front doorstep, where it sat for over 20 years. When he finally expired, his kids had the date of death carved into the stone, and as he requested, put it at the head of his grave. The epitaph reads: "This ain't bad, once you get used to it."


The late Walker Percy begs to differ (from his self interview reprinted in Signposts in a Strange Land:

But what about those unique characteristics of the South? Don't they tend to make the South a more hospitable place for writers?
Well, I've heard about that, the storytelling tradition, sense of identity, tragic dimension, community, history, and so forth. But I was never quite sure what it meant. In fact, I'm not sure that the opposite is not the case. People don't read much in the South and don't take writers very seriously, which is probably as it should be. . .

I have a theory of why Faulkner became a great writer. It was not the presence of a tradition and all that, as one generally hears, but the absence. Everybody in Oxford, Mississippi, knew who faulkner was, not because he was a great writer, but because he was a local character, a little-bitty fellow who put on airs . . .

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