Most Influential Southern Novel

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Most Influential Southern Novel

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abr. 27, 2009, 12:46 pm

South Carolina Education TV will air a show this Wednesday where academics pick the most influential Southern novel, from their list of the 20 Best Southern Novels from the 20th Century.

You can see the list and vote in an online poll at their site:

I would have liked to have seen at least one more Flannery O'Conner title and it's interesting that most of the books nominated are from the early-20th century.

If anyone catches the episode online somewhere, please share for those of us not in South Carolina!

abr. 27, 2009, 1:12 pm

Unless I am mistaken, the only other O'Connor novel is The Violent Bear it Away. BTW, I like this novel better than Wise Blood, but they are both as Southern Gothic as they get.

I think O'Connor's novels are an acquired taste. she really wasn't a very good long form writer, but her short stories are excellent.

Editat: abr. 27, 2009, 1:19 pm

That's what I was thinking, Gene--what I recall of O'Connor was some great short stories.

It's an interesting list. I would have chosen Love in the Ruins for Percy, but he's not popular enough to be terribly influential anyway. I suspect more folks are familiar with To Kill a Mockingbird and Gone with the Wind than anything else. I would vote for Native Son myself; I think it's a necessary precursor to all the Toni Morrison/Alex Haley/Alice Walker works.

trav, thanks for mentioning this. I'm in NC and will keep an eye out for the show. Our UNC/PBS station often picks up stuff from south of the border.

(fixed tupos)

abr. 27, 2009, 2:16 pm

Native Son is southern, as in Southside of Chicago. A great book, but it doesn't belong in this category.

IMO, the most influential to the lives of Southerners, then The Clansman is by far #1.
If, most influential to literature, then The Sound and the Fury leads.

My favorite on the list is All the King's Men, though it's lesser than Robert Penn Warren's Brother to Dragons.

As a "modern" compromise, I voted for To Kill a Mockingbird.

abr. 28, 2009, 4:08 pm

Not to play word games, but what do you suppose they mean by "influential"? DromJohn makes an excellent distinction in No. 4, and there are certainly other forms of influence. I'd be inclined to say that Roots influenced an awful lot of people to actually DO something, i.e. investigate their own family history, whereas many of the other novels on the list may have influenced people's thinking about one issue or another.

abr. 29, 2009, 10:07 am

You can take the question in two different ways. You can define a Southern novel as one written by a Southern writer, or you can define it as a novel where the setting is the South.

In any case, A Curtain of Green by Eudora Welty is to me the ultimate in Southern literature. Yeah, I know, I know, it's a short story compilation, but if we're going by Southern experience there's nothing better.

Other than that, I'd have to say Black Boy by Richard Wright and Light in August by William Faulkner.

Can you tell I'm partial to Mississippi writers?

jul. 1, 2009, 10:32 pm

Love in the Ruins by Percy is it..who gives a crap about's about art and voice, after all...

jul. 4, 2009, 12:14 am

aw man, i missed voting...of course having two Faulkner books just split up his votes! though i'm surprised Absalom, Absalom! beat The Sound and the Fury...i mean, Absalom, Absalom! is way up there for me, but The Sound and the Fury is about as good as a book can get! i mean, i guess Absalom, Absalom!'s a bit more specifically southern, but i mean, with Faulkner that's splitting hairs just a tad...

des. 1, 2009, 12:13 am

Don't know at this point what was on the list, but surely Huckleberry Finn, if it qualifies as Southern, should be near the top.

Editat: feb. 18, 2012, 2:28 pm

I agree with Quillmenow about Eudora Welty. I'd recommend The Optimist's Daughter, a novel by Eudora Welty, as "most influential" in the 20th century ... it did win the Pulitzer Prize, after all, and Eudora Welty was a NYTimes writer for several decades. Now there's influence.

feb. 28, 2012, 12:49 pm

What about Cold Sassy Tree?

Editat: feb. 28, 2012, 1:21 pm

One thing to keep in mind as far as the word "influential" is concerned, is that Faulkner's style, run-on sentences and stream of consciousness, proved addictive for so many writers to copy, esp. in the South. So for influence (of prose style) I would have to pick something like The Sound and the Fury, though there are many southern writers that I like besides Faulkner. For instance, I would like to think Walker Percy has had a huge influence but he hasn't.

feb. 28, 2012, 1:12 pm

I dislike what Faulkner I have read, but maybe that's just a personal opinion.

What are you looking to "influence"? People's impression of the South?

març 27, 2012, 1:52 pm

Fuzzi, exactly. Another leading candidate is Pat Conroy, whose novel The Prince of Tides became a popular movie, with Nick Nolte turning in one of his best performances ever, despite his unlikely pairing with Barbara Streisand, which provided some interesting chemistry onscreen. Conroy has of course written much more fiction:

juny 8, 2012, 1:32 pm

I just finished You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe. I don't know how influential it was, but Wolfe incorporates social commentary into his fiction and tells a good story at the same time. Actually about five good stories, since this is a pretty large book.

jul. 10, 2012, 1:25 am

#16 - thanks for sharing the link. That was the most exhaustive thinkin' I've read on Absalom, Absalom!

jul. 10, 2012, 7:10 am

Yes, excellent article. Thanks, Steve.

juny 27, 2013, 12:25 am

How do you join a group?

juny 27, 2013, 8:28 am

#19 At the top right of this page, you should see an icon with "Join This Group" next to it. Just click and you're in.

juny 27, 2013, 9:02 am

Actually, isn't that icon at top right of the group home page (navigate there by clicking on the group name at top of this page)?

juny 27, 2013, 10:03 am

elenchus, you are right, of course. I was taking a shortcut, 'cause I'm always in a hurry in the morning, and this one didn't take me where I wanted to go!

ag. 24, 2014, 4:02 pm

Favorite southern authors: Flannery O'Conner, Eudora Welty ( maybe because I really enjoyed studying them in college and they bring back my days/evenings at Salem College ). I loved their short stories so this isn't about best southern novel.

Editat: des. 18, 2019, 3:12 pm

Yes on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and I'd include Tom Sawyer as well.