A Literary Lady
I love Southern literature.
Robert Penn Warren, Zora Neale Hurston, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, James Lee Burke, Sharyn McCrumb, William Faulkner, Manly Wade Wellman, Anne Rice, Davis Grubb, — you list ‘em, I probably like ‘em.
What is it?
As usual, I overthink it a lot. But I suspect it’s simple; they’re good writers that lack winter.
Wandering in the sensual and furtive Appalachian hills of McCrumb, Warren, and Grubb. Exploring the night-time potential of New Orleans alleys and courts after a rainstorm with Williams, Burke, and Rice. Scanning the critter-filled wetlands with Hurston and Rawlings. Cataloguing the Behinders, Frogfathers, Shonikens, and Gardinels of the Smokies with Wellman.
None of these reading experiences require snow and that’s just hunky-dory with me.
Maybe the best of them all for me is Carson McCullers. Her MEMBER OF THE WEDDING, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, and REFLECTIONS IN A GOLDEN EYE are winter-less crucibles, in which individual human ingredients are combined with passion, and striving, and sweat, amidst leaves that never fall. Then those ingredients are swirled and re-separated back into their original human shells as changed people. Rarely are the changes clearly for good or ill…even death. Some are changed forever. Some revert to old paths and patterns and expectations.
In a land of no winter to close doors behind you, survival is generally not a concern, but in a land of no winter to close doors behind you, going backward is always an option…an option too often and too quickly employed by too many.
I have a new Southern author to suggest…at least, she’s new to me.
I met Judy Higgins at a meeting of an arts-related board on which we both serve. When I learned she was a published author, I obtained a copy of her first novel; THE LADY, and asked her to sign it. I read it this week.
There are many echoes of McCullers in this novel.
It is a coming of age story, set in rural Georgia in the late 50’s. Television reception is painful, if it exists at all. Entertainment mostly consists of conversations in the kitchen, a grand piano, conversations on the veranda, high school proms, conversations over dinner, visits from neighbors…you get the idea; no texts, no emails, no Netflix…no screens……faces instead. Class/race inequalities and privileges abound. Human strivings, some for more, some for any, abound. Winter threatens no one’s existence, but what will that existence be?
Ms. Higgins seems to endorse the advice of Joseph Campbell.
“Follow your bliss.”
For Ms. Higgins’ young protagonist, music is her bliss.
In her struggles Chopin, Schubert, and Mozart are her weapons and her solace.
Her aunt’s advice?
Don’t let anyone come between you and your music.
Excellent advice from another fine southern writer.