Thursday, September 01, 2005

"They endured."

I saluted the literature of New Orleans a couple of days ago (and didn't do a very thorough job of it - sorry!), so I need to give it up for Mississippi. Believe it or not - and it is hard to believe whenever somebody like Gov. Haley Barbour opens his bubba-mouth - Mississippi has birthed the greatest of the great American writers. That's why I never quite believe the statistics that put Mississippi dead-last in education - somehow, some way, the most brilliant thinkers and writers are born in the Black Belt (not to mention the soul-shattering blues musicians).

How can you touch the Mama and Papa, Eudora Welty and William Faulkner? By the way, there's a new biography about Eudora by Suzanne Marrs, recently reviewed by the New York Times , among others. I always loved The Ponder Heart. And what can I say about Faulkner? His prose is dense and his books don't make for casual reading, but by the time you're finished with one, the characters, the environment, and the history are a part of you. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I'll close my eyes and pick The Sound and the Fury.

Here is a great list of Mississippi writers - just take a gander at the names (besides Welty and Faulkner): Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote, Richard Wright, Walker Percy (yes, I know he's on my New Orleans list, too, but most of these writers crossed over to The Big Easy at one time or another), Ellen Gilchrist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, pot-boiler-churner-outter John Grisham, Sweet Potato Queen Jill Conner Browne. I know I'm leaving out really important folks, but I just wanted to give you the range of talent in this seemingly-backwater place - heavyweights, lightweights, knowns, unknowns. Simply amazing.

Read about the people and places that have been leveled, flooded, and over-burdened by Kristina. Oh, what we - as Americans (all Americans) - have lost. Show 'em some love.

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