Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why I Love to Write About the South by Lynne Bryant

From the redneck to the gothic, Southern fiction covers the muddy waterfront of genres and styles. The American South is barefoot and pregnant with possibilities for lies, fables, tall-tales, and other fabrications generally falling under the category of fiction. Writing as deep and wide as the fecund Delta cotton fields has produced a body of literature giving us such classics as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Carson McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and Edward P. Jones’ The Known World.

Southern historical novelists have as their canvas the sweeping history of a nation at war with itself, and the enslavement of an entire race of human beings for the perpetuation of a way of life that has been both reviled and romanticized. Southern humorists have at their disposal a vocal accent, joie de vivre, and classic sense of style that are unrivaled, not only for their beauty, but also for the opportunity they provide for eliciting a belly laugh. Southern thriller and mystery writers can mine the dark and deeply buried secrets hidden for generations in Southern lineages, or plumb the alligator infested Southern swamps and rivers for bodies sunk deep into the mud and covered by the trails of the bottom-feeding catfish.

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Southern writing can be as spare as Faulkner or as effusive as Conroy, and still cause the reader to give pause, to revel in an experience of sight, sound, scent, and texture. Whether it is a description of a delectable Southern culinary tradition handed down for generations, or the scents of a dark graveyard shadowed by wisteria laden oaks on a humid spring evening, or the sounds of Southern women calling to each other in muted diphthongs (“Hey y’all, how’s your mama?”), something about a story penned in the Southern backdrop is evocative of a sensory experience.

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For all of these reasons—the mud and the blood and the delicious thought of hot buttered biscuits slathered with muscadine jelly—I love to write about the South. I get to step back into my Mississippi childhood, revel in those sensations that surrounded me with a carapace of identity. Underneath that outer hull of a funny accent, an affinity for butter, and the constant requirement for a rear-view mirror (“Does my butt look big in this?”) is a deeply rooted core. I am a Southerner, and you can take the girl out of the South, but…

To learn more about me, and about that Southern sense of place, please visit my website and blog at http://www.lynne-bryant.com/.

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