Sunday, February 14, 2010

Southern Fluffy Literature

As a reader, I keep a "southern" book within reach at all times. Southern studies, short stories, novels, essays, memoirs ... all by southern authors, I immerse myself in the works of its rich, rich culture. Mixing in a book or two here and there by the current works of Piccoult or Gabaldon or Russo or Shreve ... authors who make no claim to southern roots, I really can't say I prefer one culture over another. It's just that my roots are in the South. I may live in the North someday, but those who came generations before me were southern born. Living in the South today, I am influenced by the people, the language, the landscape, the culture around me. Good, bad, or ugly ... the South continues to deliver prose near and dear to my heart.

However, some of this "cutesy southern fluff" is starting to get to me. It's becoming cliche, rather fast. Maybe already is to a few folk. I'm not sure if there are many who would agree with me, but I'm suspecting some of it has run its course.

I'm not talking about dealing with the issues of the South. The Grit Lit, so to speak. Or the gut-wrenching messages in Southern Literature.

I'm talkin' 'bout the twangy debutantes swooning over their rich, country club, tennis-playing boyfriends, who graduated from Ole' Miss. The Ida Maes and the Patsy Sues who bake the best sweet potato pies in five counties, despite their bee-hive hairdos and press-on nails. The Mee Maws and the Pee Paws who save their bacon grease in coffee cans and praise Jesus every Sunday morning at the corner Heaven Bound Baptist Church. Precious Dahlins and Sugahs who wear nothin' but pearls, all day long, drive convertibles and only shop at the Piggly Wiggly. (By the way, there are no Piggly Wigglys within a hundred miles of where I live.) Stories so sugary sweet, so full of chicken pie and Aunt Beulah's homemade molasses--well, it makes me want to throw out my Tupperware and salt & pepper shaker collection. The Driving Miss Daisy, Steel Magnolia, Green Fried Tomato, Ya Ya Wannabes. Stop! It's been written already.

I steer clear of these stories today. The South is not all about cornbread and pinto beans. As far as rednecks go, they live in every state in the union. They are not synonymous to the South. Though it is absolutely true that the South gives us plenty to write about, we have to be careful not to write characters our readers have already overdosed on. Originality in writing is key to the next great story to come out of the South.

Personally, I like Bubba and Betty Lou. They're fine folk. I just don't want to read about them all the time.

Blessings to you and yours.

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