southern gothic literature

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southern gothic literature

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1valentinebd Primer missatge
gen. 1, 2007, 8:05 pm

Hi, I was wondering what authors and books would be considered southern gothic, and what some recommendations would be. Also, any thoughts on what makes a piece of literature southern gothic? I have a vague impression of supernatural elements, but I was wondering what other factors/conventions/etc. contribute to the label "southern gothic." I recently read Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest and I think it qualifies; what other books?

Editat: gen. 2, 2007, 12:47 pm

Try Faulkner's A Rose for Emily. It's got the decrepit mansion and everything!

gen. 4, 2007, 7:17 pm

I don't think gothic has anything to do with the supernatural in the "southern gothic" sense. Flannery O'Connor is considered southern gothic. Donna Tartt's 2nd novel "The Little Friend" is considered southern gothic. Neither have anything to do with anything supernatural.

I think southern gothic has more to do with the kind of wistful reverence for the past that reflects itself in the architecture and the people. The indellible impression created by Reconstruction, after the Civil War, kind of left the entire region looking over there shoulder at what used to be, Faulkner shows this well. The grotesque, displayed as supernatural beings or events in European gothic can be pure frustration / boredom / inability to fit in, as displayed in O'Connor's work or in Carson McCullers' wonderful work. The heroes are usually nere-do-well's in southern gothic as opposed to knights and the damsels in distress usually aren't as helpless as they are in europe, though they are as passionate. The racial tensions and general southern hardships and also the southern formality (manners) also add to the 'gothic-ness'.

març 13, 2007, 11:02 am

Well said, Dags.

març 13, 2007, 2:17 pm

Not necessarily supernatural, but Southern Gothic is often considered to contain strange or unusual events.

From Wikipedia:

Southern Gothic is a subgenre of the Gothic writing style, unique to American literature. Like its parent genre, it relies on supernatural, ironic, or unusual events to guide the plot. Unlike its predecessor, it uses these tools not for the sake of suspense, but to explore social issues and reveal the cultural character of the American South.

If you are looking for supernatural Southern Gothic, I'd recommend:

A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli
Gone South and Boy's Life by Robert McCammon

març 13, 2007, 3:02 pm

For non-supernatural modern-day Southern gothic, you might want to check out Daniel Woodrell.

març 13, 2007, 3:38 pm

James Dickey's Deliverance certainly qualifies, then.

març 19, 2007, 10:51 am

Faulkner's As I Lay Dying has got to be the definition of Southern Gothic. Disturbed people doing disturbing things.

Most anything (but not everything) by Flannery O'Connor qualifies as Southern Gothic.

In one of the earlier threads someone asked for modern authors still writing who can be classified as Southern Gothic. I'm sure there are modern writers who fit this qualification, but the South, especially the urban and suburban south suffer from the same levelling of culture that affects the country as a whole. I would say the last true vestiges of the Gothic South can be found in fundamentalist Christianity. I would recommend Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington as a glimpse of what is left of the world that gave birth to Southern Gothic.

White trash does not equal Southern Gothic.

març 20, 2007, 5:16 pm

i completely agree with what Dags wrote re southern gothic re wistful reverence and some people looking over their shoulders at what used to be as well as the supernatural variety -- there's plenty of room for both, I think.

In addition to the excellent works already cited, for some unique reads, you might check out:

Wings to the Kingdom by Cherie Priest (georgia ghosts!)

The ice at the Bottom of the World: Stories by Mark Richard (sardonic and gothic)

And, by Daniel Woodrell (already mentioned above):
Ride with the Devil
Woe to Live On
Winter's Bone: A Novel
Give Us a Kiss

Guaranteed to give you some fun, and rather different reading . . . :-)

març 20, 2007, 6:23 pm

#8 geneg - I am current reading As I Lay Dying and have almost finished. I am enjoying the book very much, but you are correct - distrubed people doing disturbing things.

març 29, 2007, 6:54 pm

#1 valentinebd - I'm reading Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest. Have you read the sequels?

març 29, 2007, 6:58 pm

I'd say Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms would qualify. Isolated, decrepit Southern locale with ... shall we say ... quirky characters.

març 29, 2007, 7:03 pm

Seejack - I agree!! I didn't particularly care for the book, but I certainly think it qualifies.

març 30, 2007, 12:55 pm

I recently finished Last things by David Searcy ... another creepy Southern Gothic-type horror story well worth checking out.

abr. 4, 2007, 12:48 am

Great call, Seajack. Just finished the book and I loved the imagery of the homes that used to be grand sinking into the swamp gradually, as though the swamp were reclaiming it's own.

abr. 4, 2007, 12:55 pm

I can highly recommend the video of "Other Voices, Other Rooms" - worth it alone for the actress playing Zoo Fever!

Editat: abr. 5, 2007, 10:25 am

One of the elements in Faulkner's work that is often overlooked is the humor. In my own humble opinion, As I Lay Dying works best as a comedy, and there's humor in The Reivers too, one of Faulkner's novels that is, unfortunately, too often ignored by Faulkner scholars or dismissed as a lesser work.

18ferdinand451 Primer missatge
Editat: juny 8, 2007, 8:06 pm

I think Cormac McCarthy would definitely qualify as a writer in the Southern Gothic tradition. This is especially true in terms of the tradition of characters and situations that are "grotesque."

juny 8, 2007, 9:54 pm

juny 15, 2007, 9:47 am

i can not believe the supreme living southern gothic writer (according tothe New Yawk Times) hasn't even been mentioned on this site.


the gospel singer, 1968
Naked in Garden Hills:

a black dwarf rides a volumptous maid servent around a mansion on a hill owned by the Fatman, who begins the book at about 400 pounds and ends it by dieting on Metrecal for months at 500 plus.
andmore and mor

other books:

this thing don't lead to
karate is a thing of the
the gypsy's curse
a hawk is dying
a childhood
florida frenzy
the knockout artist
a feast of snakes
scar lover
the mulching of america

and then there is sterling watson's work and -- ahem -- andy ray's

juny 15, 2007, 1:35 pm

The House next door by Anne Rivers Siddons is an example of the gothic Southern novel. MS. Siddons had written many good books that take place in the South, but I would classify as more mainstream (the usual any-suburb that could fit the locale) than gothic.
Gothic is also Tennessee Williams.

juny 16, 2007, 7:44 pm

Let us not forget Barry Hannah. When I read the title story from his short story collection Bats out of Hell I don't think I slept that night.

juny 16, 2007, 7:48 pm

And yes Andyray in #20 I love Harry Crews and he deserves far more attention than he has gotten. PBS ran a documentary on him a few years ago and he grew up living a true southern gothic life, it's no wonder he's written the way that he has. He couldn't help himself.

juny 16, 2007, 10:50 pm

What about Tom Franklin's story Poachers? Harry Crews is great, as is Hannah.

25omaizzy Primer missatge
juny 17, 2007, 9:35 am

Thanks for all these great suggestions. I'm not really sure about a definition for 'Southern Gothic', nor do I really care. However, I DO spend half my year in Georgia and for a Canadian, that can be quite a culture shock. Consequently, over the past ten years I've read everything and anything I can about the Civil War, Reconstruction, etc.
We're not totally unaware of southern authors up here and I've always been a great fan of Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, Falkner and more; however I'm always looking for new authors and books to help immerse me in my second home.

juny 17, 2007, 3:17 pm

A good, southern, true crime story set at the height of Jim Crow in what is now suburban Atlanta is Murder in Coweta County by Margaret Ann Barnes. Real life southern gothic.

juny 21, 2007, 5:10 am

i personally cannot read John Grisham and he certainly isn't "southern." Neither are a number of other authors who hav e delved into the darness of the Southern Mystique. But Grisham's stories are faultless. I think of "A Time to Kill" as Southern Gothic. The overt torture and killing of black people and those who are different in certain ways culturally has always been part of that darkness. (In 1974, a member of the United Klans of America, Inc. was convicted of the federal crime of violating a couple's civil rights after a Polk County, Fla. jury let him off on the original charges of firebombing a salt-and-pepper couple's house in Lake Wales.) Oh yeah. It's still with us, but now they call themselves skinheads and Young Nazis.

jul. 3, 2007, 9:36 am

As selected by geneg, August's "Deep South Book of the Month" is Flannery O'Connor's The Violent Bear it Away, reported to be a veritable classic of southern gothic.

oct. 13, 2007, 9:31 pm

I'm new to this group, but since my book group is now on its second Flannery O'Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find I want to chime in. Her turns of phrase are so perfect. The gravestone engraving, "Gone to be an angle" (which is from a story I can't tell you the name of); and so many others. Previously, we read Wise Blood and then watched the movie. None of us are Southerners, but we do our best to understand it. with the help of online discussions, etc. Otherwise we're out of our depth!

Editat: set. 12, 2008, 10:28 pm

flannery o'conner is a goddess of letters. I'd like to introduce y'all to a native southern (although he originally is from Oklahoma, which I believe sat out the Great War of the Rebellion) who wrote two lovely books in his life. His name is Wyatt Wyatt and the books are "Deep in the Heart" (based in Texas) and "Catching Fire" (based in Winter Park, Florida).
At the risk of y'all flagging me, I would also like to suggest reading two books I wrote based completely in Florida and Georgia, and which are intended to bring Southern Gothic into at least the late 20th century. You tell me. Please review Andy Ray's:

"A Candle in the Rain" (1990 - Panther Press


"In the Rooms; the life story of a recovered alcoholic", 2006.

des. 4, 2007, 1:28 pm

A trilogy of works based in the Everglades around Homestead at the turn of the last century that I really enjoyed including the usual larger than life character, written by Peter Matthiessen is very interesting and I think qualifies as Southern Gothic. The books are:

Killing Mr. Watson
Lost Man's River
Bone by Bone

març 18, 2008, 1:27 pm

Although it may not be actually southern, I would like to suggest Rebecca if you haven't already read it. That and also another thing that comes to my mind isn't a book, but the movie Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte with Bette Davis....worth checking out.

març 18, 2008, 4:20 pm

Another good one: Sins of the Seventh Sister: A Novel Based on a True Story of the Gothic South

jul. 21, 2008, 8:53 am

No one has mentioned Erskine Caldwell in this discussion, have they? Tobacco Road is a must-read. And currently using elements of Southern Gothic to good effect is James Lee Burke, in his Dave Robicheaux series.

set. 1, 2008, 10:48 pm

What about Lewis Nordan? Try The Sharpshooter Blues or Wolf Whistle for a great gothic read!

set. 2, 2008, 2:25 am

Right now I'm reading and re-reading William Gay, and waiting for his new novel to be published. I'm on my thrid reading of his story collection I Hate to See that Evening Sun Go Down.

set. 12, 2008, 10:26 pm

sometimes i feel as if i have been a bird with his head tucked under his wing since i graduated the university in 1990. you guys have spread the new southern lit on me soooooooooo thick, i'll die before i finish reading them all, but thank you thank you. SO MANY BOOKS.

set. 12, 2008, 11:45 pm

hey there, all---

>#35...i thoroughly enjoyed Lightning Song as well..not as Heavy as The Sharpshooter Blues but way funnier

i just got a copy of A Burning in Homeland by Richard Yancey, on the recommendation of a friend..i haven't read it yet....oh well

abr. 22, 2011, 3:21 pm

Karen Russell's Swamplandia! is a modern example of Southern Gothic, IMHO. It has more humor than usual, sure, but it incorporates several traditional elements of gothic fiction, including the supernatural...

maig 20, 2011, 8:46 pm

How far back does Southern Gothic go? Most genres have their roots at least in the 19th century, if not farther back - what about this one?

maig 24, 2011, 5:45 pm

The earliest canonical Southern Gothic works are probably Faulkner's, beginning with "The Sound and the Fury" in 1929. The 1940s saw Capote, McCullers, O'Connor and Williams joining in.

maig 28, 2011, 10:32 am

For a great collection of gothic southern tales, from an unlikely source, check out Legends, Demons and Dreams: A Collection of Stories Straight from the Soul by Robert W Dews.

oct. 15, 2011, 11:17 am

Newbie here, and not sure if this thread is still active, but I'd add to the mix:
Beloved - Toni Morrison
Joe and Fay - Larry Brown
Ray - Barry Hannah
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Pretty much anything by Tennessee Williams
Pretty much anything by Anne Rice

oct. 15, 2011, 11:31 am

I'm not sure if belongs in the "gothic" category, but I've been reading Daniel Woodrell and he is just wonderfully dark and gritty. Some people have applied the term "country noir" to his work. His newest is The Outlaw Album, a short story collection that is keeping me up nights. It is fantastic.

oct. 15, 2011, 1:40 pm

#43 Good to see a new "face"---and to have someone revive this discussion.

#44 Daniel Woodrell can be quite gothic...I didn't know about his new collection of short stories, and I'll need to get my hands on that. Did you read his Bayou Trilogy?

oct. 24, 2011, 5:56 pm

I second the mentions of Daniel Woodrell and William Gay above...

feb. 11, 2012, 3:37 pm

John Grisham is a lifelong Southerner. Most of his bestsellers are novels about crime, punishment, and the related legal professions, with the Deep South as the setting. I agree that A Time To Kill is his most gothic work, but The Summons, The Chamber, and especially The Last Juror also deserve serious mention in the gothic category. Fully-drawn gothic characters in The Last Juror include Lucien Wilbanks, a gifted but alcoholic defense attorney, Harry Rex Vonner, a divorce attorney in Ford County, Mississippi, Sheriff Mackey Don Coley, and the entire Padgett and Hocutt families. Further details are on his website:
His more recent work, A Painted House, has been described by librarians as a Southern gothic work:

Editat: juny 25, 2012, 3:34 pm

Found this while reading my blogs, today. This is courtesy Andrew Sullivan. Flannery O'Connor, in 1959, reads "A Good Man is Hard to Find".

ag. 5, 2012, 7:59 pm

I'm glad I found this group! I do enjoy reading southern authors and, apparently, southern gothic (though I did not know it had a name). I have read some of what has been mentioned here, but am looking forward to reading many others. Thanks for all the suggestions!

set. 9, 2012, 12:16 am

New to the group as well but a HUGE Harry Crews fan. Started with Classic Crews (which is amazing) then read everything else I could by him, sad that he died just recently. Southern Gothic is by far my favorite genre.