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January 07, 2008



Some of the discrimination against Southern writers is obviously parochialism on the part of New Yorkers and others, but it seems to me that there were more obviously Southern writers when I was growing up because the South was more distinct. I've lived in what might be called the South (Gainesville, FL, for 6 years; I don't think my many years in South Florida counts, although when I first moved to Davie in 1980, I saw Confederate flags all over the place and one of my community college students wrote an excellent essay detailing the "loss of 'Rebel' spirit" in the area) as well as New York and the West, and the rest of the country has become more Southern.

Thirty years ago, I could define where it was the South began when I'd drive or be on the bus going through Northern Virginia (not the South) to where the South began, somewhere around the Rappahannock River -- it was obvious. It's less so now. Suburban sprawl looks pretty much the same everywhere. The literature of the West is in decline, too, because of that.


I think there are less and less readers in this country. Period. No matter where they live.Such a shame. BTW, read George Singleton's article 'How to Write Stories' in that same issue of OA. Hilarious.


I will confess to being a northerner who doesn't like the southern thing very much. I'll usually not read a book if it's all "southerny". This in spite of the fact that I have lived in the south and wrote a story that was in "New Stories from the South," and count O'Connor and Welty among my favorite writers. I really haven't put much thought into why this is, but I'll hazard some guesses.

There is often a deep sentimentality among southerners about the south that those of us not from there are excluded from. And I think a lot of southern writers dip into this well of sentimentality for the emotional power of their work instead of leaning on the more human and universal. That which makes a work "southern" also makes it inaccessible to those who don't have roots there. I guess you could also say this about western writing, which I don't like much either.

If Northern writers are more universal, it's because they really aren't sentimental about their region at all. That's one thing I love about upstate New York -- it has no identity.

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