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In the summer of 1980 I transferred from OSU to TU. I took a summer class to get the lay of the land, and serendipitously discovered the professor whose enthusiasm for literature would inspire me to change my major from French to English literature. The late great Dr. Jim Watson was passionate about books and introduced me to many great writers, not the least of which was the holy trinity of Southern Literature; William Faulkner, Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor.
I’m sure many of you read these iconic writers in high school or college, but have you revisited them lately? Do yourself a favor and dip into their short stories for a taste of the very best of twisted, tortured, and quirky Southern culture. Their voices resonate with me because my family’s roots are planted deep in the South.
My favorite stories are “That Evening Sun” by William Faulkner, “The Petrified Man” by Eudora Welty, and “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “The River,” and “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor. These stories can be found in the following collections.
Eudora Welty said that one cannot live in the South without being conscious of its history, and these three authors embody Southern Culture in all of its complexities.
It’s important that we hear a variety of voices of the South in order to fully understand the intricate patchwork of beauty, tragedy, guilt and struggle that make up its crazy quilt of culture. For a different perspective you’ll also want to read Zora Neale Hurston, who captured and preserved the black voices of the American South through her recordings and documentation of folk tales and songs. Try The Complete Stories..
So as the temperature rises, the humidity hangs in the air as thick as fog, and the days seem endlessly long, I encourage you to settle into a comfortable chair under the ceiling fan, sip some cool lemonade, and savor the words of these enduring Southern authors.