Regionality

While on our recent road trip to visit relatives in central Georgia, I was able to take a side trip to Greenville, SC, for a reunion with nine friends from college. We do this every couple of years now, and one of our rituals is a Saturday night book swap. The book I offered this time was Gardenias, by one of my favorite “regional” authors, Faith Sullivan of Minnesota. I’ve loved her books since one of her earlier publications, The Cape Ann; in fact, I included a used copy of that book for background, since it has some of the same characters.

Wiki has this to say about American literary regionalism, or local color: “In this style of writing, which includes both poetry and prose, the setting is particularly important and writers often emphasize specific features such as dialect, customs, history, and landscape, of a particular region.”

I was delighted to find that the book I drew, One Foot in Eden by Ron Rash, was also by a regional author – Carolinian Appalachia – and now that I’ve finished the book, I’ve learned some background history of the area I just visited. I also got to hear some local dialects; got to know some characters whom I would probably not have found in, say, Minnesota; and read descriptions of places I’ve seen only from a distance. And although the ending to this tale was sad, I would probably read another book by Ron Rash.

I have found (and loved) over the years several authors I whom I consider to be regional writers, but will wait to see if other Baboons name them before I do. To that end:

Do you have a favorite regional author? Is there a region of the USA that you would like to learn about through reading?

24 thoughts on “Regionality”

  1. Larry Woiwode is a nationally published author and ND poet laureate who lives about 60 miles from where I live. I have never read anything he wrote. I probably should.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For South Carolina Low Country authors, none are better than Pat Conroy in my opinion.

    Gotta say Garrison Keillor for MN authors stands out. WK Krueger does nice work dealing with “the rez” and relationships between them and whites in northern MN.

    I LOVED the few Paul Gruchow books I read years ago. Kicking myself that I should read all his stuff, but when ones’ TBR list is approaching 300, difficult choices must be made. 😦

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 3 people

  3. My favorite Minnesota writers would be Garrison Keillor and Kevin Kling.

    I enjoyed a book that came out in 2009. Driftless, by David Rhodes, is set in the lovely driftless region of Wisconsin. As I recall it, the plot involved the Midwestern setting and was in other ways Midwestern.

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Unfortunately, it sounds like GK is planning on closing his bookstore, Common Good Books. That’s really a shame, but apparently the allegations of sexual misconduct have taken their toll on that business. As GK himself put it: ” The #MeToo phenomenon is basically humanistic but some of it’s effect is anti-humanistic. I’ve been marked as a sexual predator for an exchange of emails. Many people refuse to shop at a predator’s bookstore. So there you are. Anyway, we had a good run. One can’t ask for more.”

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        1. You are surely right, PJ, to draw a line between Fitzgerald and many regional writers (Sarah Orne Jewett, for example) who used regional dialect and regional scenery in her work.

          And yet the Midwestern roots of Fitzgerald’s narrator in The Great Gatsby are crucial to understanding the book. The book describes a summer in which narrator Nick Carraway gets to know Jay Gatsby and his rich (and drunk) eastern friends. Carraway isn’t presented as heroic. Instead, the book shows him to be fair and trustworthy, partly because he is Midwestern. All the other figures in the book use Gatsby and never consider his interior life. Carraway alone has the compassion to see the magnificence and the silliness of Gatsby’s passion. The Great Gatsby has many flaws, yet I side with those who see it is a masterpiece, and the book depends on the Midwestern vision of its narrator.

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  4. OT: there surely are several readers of this blog who have access to Amazon videos. Here is a short but emphatic endorsement of their new TV series: The Romanoffs. I won’t bore you with details. I have only seen the first show in the series. It was the best TV I’ve seen in several years.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. One of my favorite Minnesota authors is Joh Hassler.
    – Michael Perry – like his sense of humor
    – Lorna Landvik
    – I see Louise Erdrich is considered both a Minnesota and a North Dakota author.
    – Sara Paretsky for Chicago
    Hmmm … Seems like I should be able to come up with more midwestern ones.
    – In a way, Louise Penny for Quebec
    – Kent Haruf, who writes about small town and rural Colorado, is a current favorite.
    – I was way into reading Southern regional authors a couple of decades ago, and loved Clyde Edgerton, Lee Smith, Pat Conroy, Fannie Flagg, Jill McCorkle.

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  6. Lorrie Moore is a Wisconsin author I always enjoy. Tim O’Brien and Leif Enger are well-known Minnesota writers.

    O.E. Rolvaag: a classic midwestern author. Also Willa Cather. And Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Patricia Hampl’s memoirs are precious. If you’re familiar with St. Paul neighborhoods, it’s fun to follow along in her footsteps. Excellent writer, and a really nice person. I consider it a lucky day when from time to time I run into her at various places in St, Paul.

    Perhaps my all time favorite writer is William Faulkner. Few writers capture the soul of the south like he does.

    Ted Kooser’s “Local Wonders, Seasons in the Bohemian Alps” is a small gem. There’s something so serene about his writing, love him.

    Liked by 3 people

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