Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blame it on Maggie - Giving in to the Southern Reading Challenge

I really did not plan to give in and join another challenge (note that I have ditched the Year of Reading Dangerously challenge, because I simply fell too far behind -- maybe next year) but Maggie is persuasive!! Plus, the Southern Reading Challenge is simple and straightforward:

The rules are easy: 3 Southern Setting Books by Southern Authors in 3 Months beginning May 15 through August 15!

And, Maggie mentioned chocolate-covered pecans in there, somewhere. Well, shucks, how can you pass up a thing like the potential for winning chocolate-covered pecans?

As usual, I'm not willing to simply choose and list three books because I know my own fickle nature (plus, I have plenty of Southern Lit/Southern author works lying about). Instead, I've been piling up books to choose from. Here's what I've got to choose from, so far:

1. The Rabbit Factory - Larry Brown
2. Homesick - Sela Ward
3. Soldier's Pay - William Faulkner (?? - not sure if the setting will work)
4. Return of the Stardust Cowgirl - Marsha Moyer
5. Run with the Horsemen - Ferrol Sams
6. The Known World - Edward P. Jones
7. Confederates in the Attic - Tony Horwitz
8. Giant - Edna Ferber
9. Hell at the Breech - Tom Franklin
10. When Crickets Cry - Charles Martin
11. Vicksburg - James Reasoner
12. Them - Nathan McCall
13. High Cotton - Gerard Helferich - returned to library unfinished, darn it
14. Vicksburg & Warren County: A History of People and Place - Pamela Lea Grillis Finished on 5/15/08 (it was short)
15. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen Finished on 5/29/09
16. In the Land of Dreamy Dreams by Ellen Gilchrist

Numbers 13 and 14 are library books, so I'll have to read them hastily or they'll fall off the list. I have a Eudora Welty or two, somewhere, but I can't find them at the moment. Seems like I have plenty to choose from, anyway. And, I'd really like to get my mitts on a copy of Mudbound, which I drooled over in Borders on Sunday.

My personal recommendations:

I love Larry Brown's nonfiction: On Fire and Billy Ray's Farm. Nobody gives you a sense of who Mississippians really are like Larry, in my humble opinion, for better or worse. May he rest in peace. I must have read both of those Brown books prior to becoming a blogger because I can't find reviews to link to on my blog, unfortunately. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen seems to be a book that receives rather polarized reviews, but I loved it. A friend told me the author has a new book coming out in June, as well. Wahoo for that! Maggie's review of Garden Spells can be found here. When I read Faulkner's The Unvanquished, I had to keep a dictionary on my lap; I wrote and defined vocabulary words in a spiral-bound notebook. I'm pretty sure the eldest (who was supposed to read the book for AP English -- I read along in order to quiz him and he failed my off-the-cuff test) never even cracked the book.

Two of the books on my list are Texas books. Is Texas considered a part of the South? I'm not sure. But, if heat were the only qualification, I know it would fit in just fine. If not, I'll have to knock Giant and Return of the Stardust Cowgirl off my list, although I want to read them both, anyway. I'll close this post with a photo of cotton taken in the Mississippi Delta in September of last year.

Now, I just have to try to hold out for three days because I'm really anxious to get started.

*Note on sheep video, below* - Husband says the bleating sound is definitely the sheep, not his cohort trying to catch their attention. Thank goodness for that.

Happy Southern Reading!


  1. Anonymous2:21 PM

    Taking the Scoracle Pulitzer Prize quiz the other day - I couldn't even think of a Eudora Welty OR William Faulkner title.

    Looks like you're all set for the challenge! Good luck!!

    That sheepie and lambiekins video is too cute!

  2. Carrie,

    You can't live in Mississippi and not know a few titles by those two! I've only read one of each, though: The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty and The Unvanquished by Faulkner. I've got The Optimist's Daughter, a book of short stories and a book on writing by Eudora. Faulkner . . . not sure what else I have on the shelves, but Soldier's Pay looks like the least weighty. Yep, I'm pretty well set. :)

    Aren't they adorable? Hubby said it was the sheep making that noise, not his pal, Randy. Well, if I'd known who he was with, I'd have known better than to theorize -- not the kind of guy to make sheep noises, if you know what I mean. LOL

  3. note that I have ditched the Year of Reading Dangerously challenge, because I simply fell too far behind -- maybe next year

    Ha! me too. It seemed like a good idea, and I liked the idea of reading those books, but alas, there was no time.

    That's a great list, and thanks for the recs, I didn't really know any southern books until last year.

  4. Raidergirl,

    Thank you for saying that. I felt awful dropping the Year of Reading Dangerously challenge (since it was, after all, the only one I intended to sign up for in 2008) but since it's May and I haven't read a single book for that challenge, it was time to give it up.

    Oh, good, I'm glad you were happy to find some recommendations. I've been in the Deep South long enough that I probably should have read a lot more Southern Lit, but I'm discovering I've read more than I realized. I didn't mention To Kill a Mockingbird or A Confederacy of Dunces. Mockingbird is terrific and Confederacy is totally weird but I liked it. :)

  5. Oh - get on your library waiting list for Mudbound - maybe you'll get it before the challenge is over.

    I'm a bit concerned about you and Hell at the Breech -- I always describe that one as a "brutal story, beautifully told". There's some seriously disturbing parts of that book. It's still one of the all time best I've ever read, but a word of caution.

  6. Suzi,

    I'll do that. I really do want to read Mudbound. Your review is one of the reasons I'm drooling.

    Thanks for the warning! I own a copy of Hell at the Breech, but if I read it, I'll go in prepared to either deal with nightmares or ready to ditch it if things become disturbing. Your warnings are always appreciated. I get awfully tired of nightmares, some weeks. This has been a nightmare-heavy week, actually.

  7. Heh...just couldn't be completely challenge free could you? ;) I know what you mean, when chocolate covered pecans are involved you can't say no! I haven't heard of any of the books on your list, so of course I can't wait for all of these reviews! It's from you that I heard of Garden Spells and I'm looking forward to it. So would you recommend the Faulkner book despite it's big vocabulary? Everyone keeps telling me to read that guy for some reason...lol. ;) Happy southern reading in the good old muggy south!

  8. I'm pretty sure Texas is considered to be in the South. Either that or they (Texans) consider it to be its own country! ;)

    Homesick - Sela Ward - I loved her in Once and Again (as Lily)! I only caught a couple of episodes of Sisters. She played Teddy. And, of course, she's been on House a few times. She kind of reminds me of Mel Harris (Hope in thirtysomething). I'm very curious about this memoir. Let me know what you think!

  9. Chris,

    Apparently, it's impossible for me to remain completely and totally challenge-free. Distressing, but true. But, yeah, chocolate and pecans together? Well, some things just cannot be denied. I have to at least try. :)

    I hope you love Garden Spells!

    On Faulkner . . . hmmm. I'd say yes, he's worth a try. I've read a few differing opinions on Faulkner. Some think he was a little heavy-handed and some seem to believe that he was just so brilliant that he couldn't help but write with complexity and erudition. I lean toward the former camp. My personal opinion is that a story can be just as meaningful without going overboard on imagery and higher-minded wording. And, yet, I recall being pretty amazed when I read The Unvanquished -- and trying to convince my son that he really ought to just read the thing because it was worth reading. So, hard as his writing can be to digest, I think it's worth the effort. Does that make sense?

  10. Les,

    I guess I'm thinking "Mid-South versus Deep South". I considered adding a book by Lisa Wingate but going with an Oklahoma author (she graduated from my alma mater, OSU) seemed like it was just a bit too un-South to me, although I know a lot of people chuck OK and TX into that Mid-South category. Still, Texas seems somehow more southern to me than my home state. I know, I'm just being picky. LOL

    I've never seen Once and Again or Sisters, but I liked Sela in The Fugitive. In House, I thought, "Naaaah." She just didn't seem like his type, for some reason. The acting was okay, but the role just felt somehow wrong.

  11. Bookfool -

    Well, Texas sure is south from where I sit!

    Your list sounds wonderful and I'm glad you signed up.


  12. CJ,

    Heh, good point. :)

    Thank you. I've thought about you, lately, for a really bizarre reason. I've had three of those "visitation" dreams -- two with just my mother, one with both Mom and Dad. Interesting, no?

  13. I'd love to get my hands on Mudbound, too. And I'm kind of hoping you read When Crickets Cry, so I can hear what you think of it...I've had that one on my wish list for a while, but have never picked it up.

    Love that photo...I'd seriously frame that baby for my wall! You truly are a genius with that camera!

  14. Debi,

    I'm so fickle that I don't know what I'll end up reading, but I'll try to remember that you're interested in hearing about When Crickets Cry. The thought might move me subconsciously. LOL I'm really fickle.

    Thank you. I very seldom frame my photos, but I do have one close-up of a flamingo on my piano. That's about it. We keep painting walls and nothing ever gets hung back up. My life is unique. :)

  15. Oh, how cool!

    Drop me an email if you feel like sharing!


  16. Yeah...I caved for this challenge too! I almost picked up Mudbound this weekend when we were in Chicago. But I figured I already spend enough money just going away for the weekend.

    But I did put Garden Spells on my Southern Challenge list!

  17. I can see in the near future that I'm not going to complete several of the challenges I've signed up for so I don't know if I'd be wise to sign up for more. Although, I really want to. I've accepted too many books from the publishers and really need to get reading those.

  18. Stephanie,

    I know what you mean. Just driving to Jackson and back makes me feel broke, now (about 50 miles, one-way), but it has to be done. When all the storms clear up (I'm on, I'm off, I plug in and write a note, I hastily shut down), I'm planning to see if my library has Mudbound and get myself on the waiting list. They probably won't, but we'll see. :)

    I hope you love Garden Spells as much as I did. I thought it was magical.


    For some reason, I always feel like I'm perpetually behind on those advanced readers, although I shove them to the head of the queue and usually get finished reading in a very reasonable amount of time. Maybe it's just the sheer quantity that becomes a bit intimidating.

    As to challenges . . . I said I was giving them up in 2008 *except* for the one. Since I ditched that particular challenge, the Southern Reading Challenge is just a replacement and therefore doesn't count as a second challenge.

    Honestly, I can talk myself into believing anything. :)

  19. I'm looking forward to your review of Giant. Edna Ferber is kind of comfort reading for me.

  20. Bybee,

    Well, cool. That's nice to know. I've never read Edna Ferber, although Giant has been sitting in a pile on the closet shelf (books take priority over shoes, for this chick) for several years. I admire that closet pile more than I dip into it. :)

  21. Haven't read that particular Faulkner, but you can never go wrong with him in a southern lit challenge. I'm on the fence with this one--but I have two that I can crosspost--including All the King's Men which I'm reading now. Have fun with the challenge!

  22. I caught your post a couple of days ago but I waited until tonight to read it. Thanks for joining and I hope I can keep you interested.

    Oh, I wanted to let you know we have a 1st edition Dirty Work by Larry Brown to give away. Hum, now what kind of contest would possibly be tough and dirty south enough for this book?

  23. Trish,

    I read a few pages of Soldier's Pay and found it a bit on the ponderous side, so maybe I'll dig on the shelves to see what other Faulkners I have on tap. We'll see. :)

    I didn't know All the King's Men is Southern Lit. I'm pretty sure I still have a copy of that title, but I wouldn't know where. If I do have it, it hasn't made an appearance for a while.


    I knew you'd dropped by because I saw the link (and, thus, didn't bother to leave one at your blog). What to do for Dirty Work . . . hmm, good question. Maybe write an essay involving heat and sweat. No, too much effort. I don't know, but you know I love Larry and I'll probably give whatever you ask a try. :)

    BTW, I actually finished my first book for the challenge, this morning. It was short. Very short.

  24. All the King's Men is very southern (I hope! since I'm counting it for the challenge either way). :) It is based on the story of Huey Long the former governor of Louisiana. Although the state in the book isn't named specifically, it is supposed to be Louisiana. Hopefully I have all my facts straight. ;)

  25. Oh, ah. I know of Huey. He was quite a character. I probably knew what it was about, at one point, but All the King's Men is a book I distinctly recall buying with my discount when I worked in a bookstore. And, I got piles and piles of books at that store, so I'm still hacking away at them, something on the order of 6 years after the boss moved the store to Florida. :)

  26. Anonymous6:53 AM

    And any Southern book you don't like, you can always send it to me! I don't mind begging, borrowing or stealling books!


  27. LOL! Me, too, Guatami!

    So far, I've enjoyed everything I've read, but you never know. I don't plan to stop at 3. :)


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