Something Somewhat Southern

 

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Creative Nonfiction, Spring 2013 – Lust, Lies & Bad Behavior, True Stories of Southern Sin

 

This was an interesting issue – and one I submitted for. I didn’t expect to have my piece accepted – it’s always a bit like grabbing the brass ring. Nonetheless, I held off reading it until I could kick back (the opportune time: following recent knee surgery) and give it an enjoyable read.

The writing here is excellent, as always, but as a Southerner, I had the sinking feeling as I read on that this wasn’t as truly Southern as I’d hoped. I’m certainly not going to diss the story selection, but I did take in a bit of information that may bear on why the issue didn’t truly satisfy this Southern heart.

  1. Six of the nine pieces were written by women, three by men. Stop before you get indignant here – – what I’m wondering is this: Since five of the six written by women were about men, is the opinion here that stories of sinful Southern women pale in the face of such by men? Personally, I can tell you from personal experience that Southern women can be as lusty,  tell lies, and stand as full of bad behavior as men. In fact, I can name a couple in my own family.
  2. Of the nine pieces, only two were by writers who have remained lifelong Southerners. Four, possibly five, have moved from that region to the Midwest or the North. To my mind there are only two ways to deal with Southern life, as backwards and often delightful as it can be: to move away, or to write your way out of the South. Of the two, only the latter seems capable of allowing readers to experience the imprint the South has had on a writer’s life.
  3. What I read here is largely a depiction of the New South, i.e., a South peopled by immigrants from other countries and other regions of the U.S. But is this truly about the South as a region? That’s always arguable, certainly by sociological standards. But to write about the South, even as it is today, means to yearn, to look back in time, at least whimsically, for “the way it was.” It can also mean, given the topic of this issue, to yearn for a moral posture that spells things out in black and white, not in multiple shades of gray. Too, these stories were largely vignettes, character pieces, ones that could just as well have been set in rural regions of the Midwest, even the redneckier regions of California.

Still, it’s an admirable topic for such an issue, and I’m glad CNF gave the South this wink and nod.

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