Home is Where Lit’s At

… ouch. That’s an intense pun. My sister is rubbing off on me! Now, I give you the reason for the inundation of the southern disposition of my blog lately.

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There is something sickeningly sweet and refreshingly comforting about southern literature. Maybe it’s because I’ve grown up here, but I think even if I hadn’t, Pat Conroy would have made me wish I had.

It’s uncanny how vividly southern summers are captured. If nothing else, the ability to remind me of what that sticky summer air feels, smells, tastes like is what makes this genre so great.

I can almost hear the crickets and some faint blues music, like Howlin’ Wolf. I can see the amber tint that everything has when the sun is at the right spot in the sky. I can smell the earthy air, cow manure and all. I see cracks in the dehydrated earth, bees floating from flower to flower, and children running through sprinklers. I see Fourth of July, swimming pools, county fairs, and cookouts.

I remember every detail of my past southern summers in a way I think my own memory is incapable of doing without such expert prompting.

As is customary for anything loved by some, it is hated by others. There are a lot of skeptics who think the genre lacks depth, but I dare to you read Conroy’s Beach Music or Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees without crying.

To be fair, I can see how a critic could be swayed to believe this. Case and point: Nicholas Jackass Sparks.

Ne’er fear: tweens everywhere should be reminded that Nicholas Sparks’ fluffy pulp fiction does not belong to the southern lit clan. Even though Rodanthe is 30 minutes away from my family’s beach house, Sparks still can’t call southern lit his home. He longs to be a southern author, but will never be until he writes something like The Great Santini. I implore him to, but until then, don’t let his slight of hand fool you. It’s an utter illusion.

Southern literature is much, much deeper than that exterior, shiny kind of shit. It’s an entire culture. It is reality, even if the author has written fiction. It is the heart of these writers and their readers, lying vulnerable on a page.

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