Something about the South has inspired the imaginations of an extraordinary number of America's best storytellers - and greatest writers. That quality may be a rich, unequivocal sense of place, a living connection with the past, or the contradictions and passions that endow this region with awesome tragedy. The stories in this superb collection of modern Southern writing are about childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood - in other words, about growing up in the South. An excerpt from Maya Angelou's autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, describing her 1940 grade school graduation is a story of discrimination and the strengths blacks gained as they united as a community to fight prejudice. Flannery O'Conner's "Everything That Rises Must Converge,"set in a South that remains segregated even after segregation is declared illegal, is the story of a white college student who chastises his mother for her prejudice against blacks. But black, white, aristocrat, or sharecropper, each of these 24 authors is unmistakably Southern... and their writing, indisputably wonderful.
I decided a few months ago that it's about time I boned up on my southern authors. I mentioned this to a friend a few weeks ago and he loaned me this book from his college days. Most of the stories were very interesting - the only one I truly felt was a waste of my time was "The Man Who Was Almost a Man." The three that I enjoyed the most were "Fast Love," "The Old Forest," and "Old Mortality." As a matter of fact, I'm going to change my rating from 3 stars to 4 based soley on the merits of those three stories. And there were a number of others that were really good as well . . . I gave the book back a few nights ago and can't quite recall titles or authors right now, though.
I have to admit - I only read half of this book. These were just excerpts from books written by these authors - maybe a chapter or just a story - not even short stories. But even so, I found myself longing to pick up a book with a story I could sink into. It's what I enjoy about reading - losing myself in a good story. These little snatches here and there just didn't hold my interest. I noticed that my daughter-in-law, who gave me the book, quit about halfway through, as well.
This is a truly fantastic anthology with much that a Southerner can relate to. It's so good that I may even force my cute wife to read it. Here is where I first ran into the writings of Eudora Welty among others. Give it a try and if you're not a Southerner, read it to find out what makes us what we are. I promise that it's more than truck pulls and beer.