Tag Archives: Southern literature

Stuff I, Myself, Like

26 Oct

Available at Pink Tulip of Daphne’s Etsy store

I’m working on a super-secret new project for Stuff Southern People Like, which I hope to launch next week. Meanwhile, I wanted to share some fun stuff I’ve discovered on my recent travels along the information superhighway.

One of my most popular posts has been Butter My Butt and Call Me a Biscuit (and other Colorful Expressions), so I figure y’all will just eat this up. When I ran across the clip on YouTube, I was happier than a pig in slop (but also madder than a wet hen that I didn’t think of it first).

I’ve neglected, thus far, to post about one of my all-time favorite writers, Flannery O’Connor, but this prompts me to get around to it sooner than later. It’s an audio clip from a lecture she did at UL Lafayette she did in ’62 that was found in a filing cabinet last year. I’ve transcribed it for my Yankee readers, seeing as her accent is thick as Tupelo honey.

“A few young Southern writers feel about the South the way Joyce felt about Ireland, that it will devour them. They would like to set their stories in a region whose way of life seems nearer the spirit of what they think they have to say. Better, they would like to eliminate the region altogether. But you cannot proceed at all if you cut yourself off from the sights and sounds that have built up a life of their own in your senses and which carry a culture in them. The image of the South is so strong in us that it is a force which has to be encountered and engaged. It is when this is a true engagement that its meaning will lead outward to universal human interest.” Flannery O’Connor

Faulkner as “The Sound and the Fury”
by John Sokol

I’m a writer, so I’m biased, but I just LOVE the intersection of literary and visual arts. Artist John Sokol does amazing portraits of writers using their own words. His rendition of Faulkner is my favorite, but y’all should check out the entire collection, which also includes Miss Welty.

On my recent trip to MS, I noticed that the Pacific Northwest trend of putting birds on everything has migrated down South. This clip from Portlandia offers a hilarious take on it. Note to Etsy types, if you want me to buy something, put a WORD on it. (Also, I must confess that I am also partial to stuff adorned with images of birds.)

Earlier this week, I saw a presentation at Book Larder (a cookbook book store, y’all! Southern entrepreneurs, take note!) by two delightful young ladies who started up a candy business called Liddabit Sweets in Brooklyn. They just published a candy cookbook, which I cannot recommend highly enough for anybody who’s ever suffered from fudge failures and caramelization catastrophes. They demystify candymaking and include helpful troubleshooting photos. I’m still devouring the book and haven’t attempted a recipe yet, but I tasted their homemade marshmallows and was sold.

Caveat: Seeing as they’re east coasters, there are a few items missing from their candy repertoire–pralines, divinity, coconut balls, etc.–but don’t hold that against them. Also, they use way more walnuts than any Southerner would find socially acceptable, but it’s easy to substitute edible nuts.

Discussion question: When you buy Halloween candy, do you load up on the good stuff and hope for few trick-or-treaters or is that just me? What are your favorites? I usually go for Snickers, Almond Joy, and the occasional Kit Kat.

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90. William Faulkner, King of Yoknapatawpha County

25 Mar

“How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.”
— William Faulkner, “As I Lay Dying”

Southern people love William Faulkner…unless they hate him. There’s really no middle ground. You won’t overhear a bookstore patron saying, “Faulkner’s all right, I reckon, but I prefer Stephen King.”

Reading “As I Lay Dying” in high school was my introduction to full-length Faulkner. I see this as both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because starting with, say, “The Sound and the Fury” might’ve caused me to break out in hives and consider myself allergic to his work. (This had happened before with Melville/”Billy Budd.”) A curse because “As I Lay Dying” set the standard by which I judge Southern novels. So far, everything else has come up short.

In “As I Lay Dying,” Faulkner offers a collection of first person narratives, recounting the adventures of a family transporting a dead body across Mississippi in the middle of summer. Why would they attempt this, you might ask. Because the body belongs to their mother (who had previously lain dying), and she insisted on being buried with her people. Also, each family member has an ulterior motive for going to town, ranging from Vardaman, the youngest who wants a toy train to Anse, the father who wants a new set of teeth (and manages to snag himself a new wife in the bargain).

Macabre comedy ensues.

I once made the mistake of taking a graduate-level course on Faulkner, which required reading an assigned novel every couple of weeks. I’ve always had a penchant (and dare I say, talent) for getting things done at the last possible minute. Not so with Faulkner. His work should be savored like a piece of artisan-crafted dark chocolate, not gobbled like a waxy Hershey’s Kiss. Sure, I read “The Unvanquished” in one night, but I can’t recall a single plot point. I’d guess it’s about a dysfunctional Mississippi family who may or may not turn out to be vanquished. Am I close?

The most common complaint I hear about Faulkner is that his work is difficult to read. No argument there: it is. But it’s kind of like exercise: difficult at the time, but satisfying (especially if you reward yourself with ice cream once you’re done).

In an interview for The Paris Review, Faulkner was asked: “Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them.” Faulkner replied: “Read it four times.”

If you find yourself near Oxford, MS, looking for a literary excursion, head over to Faulkner’s Greek Revival home, Rowan Oak. On my visit, the docent was knowledgeable and none-too-strict, which was nice, seeing as I had to move the plastic barrier at the door of his study to get a better view of his writing on the walls. This was the outline of his novel “The Fable,” for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. Sadly, my parents painted over all my crayon scribblings decades ago. Who knows what all I could have won by now…

What’s your favorite Faulkner novel, story, or anecdote? And if he’s not your cup of sweet tea, who is?

Photo credits: Rowan Oak sign and Faulkner’s writing on the walls photos courtesy of Nick Russell. Check out a collection of his AH-MAY-ZING photos on his blog Visual Textuality.

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