Runners Who Read

Who knew? A bunch of runners who enjoy reading and discussing what they read.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Vacationing with Oprah this summer?

Her summer book club selection may weigh down your beach bag a bit!

9 Comments:

Blogger michele said...

Pretty heady stuff, but Faulkner is a fantastic read if you can get into it. I have devored Light in August on more than one occasion. It is amazing that a writer can create such vivid images with sentences that go on for pages, and get you to want to read them. I wonder if Oprah has read them?

Everyone should enjoy a little Faulkner once in a while.

7:09 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Faulkner has been a favorite of mine since high school ... he's one of the few writers who really seem to "get" the southern perspective. Too many of the newer generation of southern U.S. writers think it's all about writing about eccentric old women and magnolia trees. But Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor understood southern living on a deeper level. I guess that's why we're still reading them.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Nels Nelson said...

Do you think the bent towards the eccentric in southern writers is a sort of nostalgia for what's gone missing as what we know as regionalism gets eaten up and one town one region becomes more and more like any other? Sort of a romantic last ditch to preserve some characteristics, real or made up, of the southlands?

I heard a neat piece on NPR yesterday afternoon re. the Mississippi delta and how it is changing in response to farming conglomeration and the closing of factories. Dunno whether or not there are any links on NPR's web, but it might be worth checking. Or not.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Nels: I think much of the current crop of Southern writers are still heavily influenced by the pioneers, O'Connor and Faulkner, and often misinterpret them.

On the surface, O'Connor's characters seem to verge on the grotesque/cartoonish, but she was often exaggerating them to underpin highly personalized moral/philosophical themes. Many newer southern writers have watered down her original intent to the simple portrayal of cute eccentrics.

Much the same with Faulkner ... newer writers are often taken with the trappings of Faulkner, the magnolia blossoms and decaying plantation mansions, without having his deeper sense of the moral/spiritual decay lying underneath. To many of the newer writers, it's all just window dressing.

So I don't think it's conscious romanticism, much as a surface strip-mining of what people find attractive in both Faulkner and O'Connor. Most of the younger writers working today probably don't have much direct personal experience with the hyper-romantic aspects of southern culture -- which both Faulkner and O'Connor mercilessly skewered again and again.

Mind you, that's what I think ...

2:20 PM  
Blogger Nels Nelson said...

Interesting thoughts, Eddie baby. So you think, if I read your note correctly, that's it's more an issue of ignorance? Hmm.

Any thoughts on, say, such writers getting picked for publishing because that's what the reading public wants to read about the south, quirks and decay?

8:10 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Nels:

I don't think it's an issue of ignorance; more of an issue of simply aping what people find attractive in Faulkner and O'Connor -- the obvious surface pleasures of gothic settings and eccentric characters -- without wanting to delve into the deeper issues of morality and social decay that both of those writers explored. More an issue of laziness, I suppose, just going with what sells.

And yeah, for what it's worth, I do think that quirky little old ladies and big mansions with magnolia trees -- the whole "southern charm" thing -- is what many audiences, and susequently publishers, find attractive about southern fiction. But then I think that misguided nostalgia of any sort is usually a seller's market.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Nels Nelson said...

I'm basically ignorant myself of contemporary southern writers, or at least I think I am. Whom do you have in mind re. the newer generation?

7:46 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Jill McCorkle is as good an example as any of what I think of as the gentryizing of Southern fiction ... although Ellen Gilchrist is a (comparatively) newer generation Southern writer who seems to find new ways of writing about the South without falling into sentimentality (although she skirts the edges at times). I'm looking forward to Brad Vice's novel "The Bear Bryant Funeral Train," which comes out in October; here's a link to a good short story by him:

http://www.athicket.com/issue02/vice-tuscaloosa.html

It's not all bad news, by any means!

8:04 AM  
Blogger Bernice T said...

Frederick Barthelme is another neo-Southern writer who does a good job of capturing Mississippi-on-the-cusp, one foot in a complicated past and the other in a wan, homogenized future. He's an interesting storyteller, especially when he's explaining how he and his brother blew their inheritance at Mississippi's casinos (a true and bizarre story recounted in "Double Down")

2:51 PM  

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