One-Minute Book Reviews

June 5, 2009

More of My Favorite Books About the South

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:06 am
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In my posts this week on Southern literature, I’ve avoided warhorses and focused on underappreciated works (excluding poetry, which deserves its own series). Among the books I like that didn’t make the cut because they are so well known or because I’ve written about them before on this site: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. What are your favorites?


  1. I will second To Kill a Mockingbird as one of my all-time favorites. I also enjoyed Ava’s Man, by Rick Bragg, set in rural Alabama. I liked As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, as well as any of Tennessee Williams’ plays. I cannot leave A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole off of this list of faves.

    Comment by UmmFarouq — June 5, 2009 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

    • It sounds as though “The Angry Raisins” might have been the standard title in Japan for a while. That could explain how both Steinbeck’s widow (who has told the anecdote I mentioned) and your teacher’s friend might have seen it. Wonder how long it took to get a new translation 🙂

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 5, 2009 @ 6:33 pm | Reply

    • Did you know Bragg has a new book out? I haven’t read it yet, because it seems just to have arrived in the past week or two.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 6, 2009 @ 1:01 am | Reply

  2. All the ones you’ve mentioned, plus:
    Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress
    Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living by Bailey White.

    Comment by Kat — June 8, 2009 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

    • Kat —
      Thanks for the reminder about Crazy in Alabama. How can I never have read Childress his name appears on so many “best writers of the South list”? And how can I have only dipped into the work of Sams and White?

      Part of the explanation for the gaps is that when I was the book editor of The Plain Dealer, I worked with many good freelancers who had a strong interest in Southern literature. So often instead of reviewing novels from the region myself, I’d assign them out.

      I have some catching up to do and appreciate your suggestions!

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 8, 2009 @ 4:58 pm | Reply

  3. Oh, and The Widow’s Mite by Ferrol Sams. It is a collection of short stories, and he is better known as a novelist (Run with the Horsemen, Whiper of the River) but I like his short stories better.

    Comment by Kat — June 8, 2009 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

  4. I would include a number of pieces by Ellen Gilchrist, starting with “The Anna Papers” and including “The Annunciation”. Some of her story collections as well.

    Comment by LadySankofa — June 10, 2009 @ 3:39 pm | Reply

    • John and Lady Sankofa: Thank you both for these suggestions. Ellen Gilchrist is still best known to some people for her Victory Over Japan, so I’m glad to have comments on her other books.


      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 10, 2009 @ 3:59 pm | Reply

  5. Regarding Childress, any writer who can tell the story of a woman carrying a human head around in a tupperware bowl and make it seem like a reasonable, logical course of action for that person in that situation has some real characterization skills!

    Comment by Kat — June 11, 2009 @ 1:01 pm | Reply

    • Do you think Childress was influenced by the corpse who speaks in As I Lay Dying? Your example and mine both seem to reflect a certain turn of mind on the part of their authors.

      Flannery O’Connor called it “the grotesque,” but she wasn’t using that word pejoratively, just as way of describing something that ordinary people won’t see in their lifetimes.


      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 11, 2009 @ 2:00 pm | Reply

      • I’ve been mulling this over, and I keep thinking of other instances in southern folklore and humor where a dead body becomes a character in the narrative. (I mentally excluded stories with ghost characters – which are countless – and limited my thinking to stories with actual corpses.) Examples: the folktale “Old Dry Frye” which is both very funny and very morbid; the tale called “Sitting Up With the Dead” or some variant of that title, which is really an extended joke. Most of these have been collected in the written record, but originated as oral traditions. So I can’t say if Childress was influenced by Faulkner, or if it’s more a case of both of them being influenced by the oral tradition of the south. This would make a great topic for a dissertation.

        Comment by Kat — June 12, 2009 @ 11:51 am

      • “A great topic for a dissertation”: Yes! Even teenage reluctant readers might enjoy reading some of these books or stories because they are so fascinated right now by the intersection of the realms of the living and dead, as in the “Twilight” series.

        Thanks for adding to the list.

        Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 12, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

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