Saturday, December 30, 2006

Every once, in a very great while, I start looking around for places to submit work to. I know I should. I know I should be collecting the stack of rejection letters that are rightfully my due. But I'm sorta lazy, you know?

But, I did start looking around last night, with a mind to develop a short piece of fiction to submit to some Southern journal or another that might be interested in the sort of work I do.

I ran into storySouth, and they sure do seem to think a lot of themselves. And they do seem to be aimed at new writers and seem to push them fairly aggressively.

But while reading the sort of thing they were interested in, I sort of felt like old Knowlt Hoheimer from Spoon River Anthology...stuck in eternity looking up at a "granite pedestal bearing the words, 'Pro Patria.' "

They are looking for writing from "the New South". What the hell does that mean, anyhow?

My writing is largely in reaction to what I see as "the New South". I despise the whole concept of the loss of our traditions, language, culture and our dark and adorable eccentricities. I stood by powerlessly and watched my beloved Lowcountry bulldozed and turned into a damn paradise for northern retirees. Thank you very much, freakin' Hilton Head. The cypress bogs where the O'Quinn boys faded into the landscape like skinks on a log are now drained and dotted with little saltbox houses selling for 500,000 in gated communities. The beautiful ebony-skinned Gullah peoples are now flung wide and far, unable to pay the exorbitant property taxes. Daufuski Island is a damn golf resort.

Why in God's name would I want to write about such a rape? It's obscene.

So yes, I chose to move to a place that still had its culture largely intact, though I'm pretty sure in another 20 years this place will be just like Beaufort county. And I do write about these people and they do seem stereotypical at times.

But they are real people. I have no intention of cleaning them up or changing my writing to make them conform to whatever handy template some Appalachian studies professor has decided they must fit into. They may be poor, but they are certainly not impoverished. They may be illiterate but they are smart as hell. I love these people. They deserve to be written about as they really are because that is quite a wonderful thing.

So yeah...I guess I am a "Dead Mule" writer. I only recently came across that term and it's not that surprising since I, like my influence Flannery O'Connor, have avoided Faulkner's influence fairly assiduously. Though, honestly, I've never run across a dead mule that I could write about. Dead bears...but no dead mules. Honestly...I can see the appeal. I just hate it that I didn't think of it first.

So, I ran into The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. I think I'll wait until they are taking submissions again and give storySouth a pass. Their laurels are probably really comfy to sit upon.

And another of my pet peeves...what is it with Southern writers and editors living in places like Nu Yolk City? Are we just good enough to write about but not good enough to live amongst? How does one keep any sense of verisimilitude living in a place like that...not that I don't love Nu Yolk, but I found it hard to write Southern while mindlessly circling Atlanta on 285. God bless Lewis Grizzard, I don't know how he did it.

I know Atlanta is supposed to be the epicenter of the "New South", but as many times as I've lived there, I always felt insulated from what I saw as the "Real South".

The Real South is about the little place in Perry, GA with the railroad out the back door that served the best country ham biscuit I ever ate. It's about Mrs. Snodderly's little backwoods store that sold salt-rising bread on the outskirts of Andersonville, TN. It's also about feuding about what makes the best base for barbecue sauce...mustard or katsup? It's about the little place off the John's Island causeway that throws steaming blue crabs down on newspaper. It's about R. A. Miller making his painted tin artwork next to the Esso station where he pumped gas at for 40 years.

The Real South is still out there. And I'm going to write about it as long as it is.

2 Comments:

  1. Velociman said...
    I'm an inveterate Faulkner junkie. I could have taught him so much. Check out the brilliant Stanley Elkin's Making of Ashenden sometime. Elkin's doctoral thesis was on Faulkner, and Ashenden is a take on "The Bear," although here our protagonist doesn't kill the bear, he has sex with it. Bravo!

    And I'm sick of Florida. I'm going to quit my job and move to North Georgia. Perhaps I can teach Perverse Southern Blogging 404 at Young Harris.
    Anonymous said...
    to truly write about the south you should live among the people you are writting about but only a southern can truly write about this for we are the south it's like the Southern drawl you are born with it honey you can't act it and make it sound real

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