The writer makes four points about the singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt: “He was a person who had lost the use of his legs, the enjoyment of his own body, and the first line of the first song from his first record is, “I dreamed I was a’ dancin’,” and he was so good, you don’t notice.”
"Blessed with a helplessly big voice, Kenni Huskey began performing at age seven on the Memphis program Country Shindig in 1962, singing with local country and rockabilly stalwart Eddie Bond. For her first taping, she was too tiny to reach the microphone, and Eddie stacked two wooden Coca-Cola crates so her little face could reach it."
The story of True Soul, an independent record label from Little Rock, Arkansas, and its founder, Lee Anthony: "From the outset, True Soul had been an experiment. Rather than standing by while local talent fled to the nearby city of Memphis, the hotbed of Southern soul, Lee Anthony decided to start his own label in Little Rock, the capital of his home state, to tap into the city’s rich offerings of gospel, soul, and funk and put Little Rock’s long-overlooked music scene on the map."
"Other People, the most recent album by the breakthrough Little Rock band American Princes, suggests another possibility. What if it’s not rock that’s repeating itself, but history? One of the oddities about growing up in the Nineties was hearing how awful the Eighties were—two recessions, the victory of movement conservatism, the threat of thermonuclear war—and fearing that we pampered post–Cold War children would never escape a diminished, if happier, age."
In 2009, the OA asked 134 judges what they considered to be the best Southern books of all time. They came up with a list for fiction and nonfiction, choosing from more than five hundred titles. This is the underdogs list, the books that didn't make the cut for "best" but are more than worth adding to your bookshelves.
"Rereading the novel on my own the summer before teaching it, I was stunned once more by its complexity. Absalom is not an easy read, and it resists casual intimacy. Sentences swell and loop, wind-ing into rhetorical knots. Narrators speculate, are ignorant, or just plain lie. Faulkner himself rarely appears, and he never brings answers. Sixteen-year-olds, I knew—even the most clever ones—tend to read in anticipation of Aesopian morality, a thematic deus ex machina, and Faulkner simply doesn’t provide one."
The Thomas Wolfe Memorial does not move us to think about the creative spirit so much as it moves us to think about everyday life. Cleave it from its ties to literary celebrity and it becomes replete in and of itself: Come see how, in a certain place at a certain time, some people lived, and some made a living.
Why has Barry Hannah—though considered by many writers and scholars to be the current Great One of Southern Letters (and most would drop the modifiers “current” and “Southern”)—continued to fall under that lackluster rubric, the Writer’s Writer?