The idea of the Southern Renaissance evades many, not for lack of interest but rather a lack of general awareness. It’s just not something you hear about in everyday conversation.
It is, however, one of those beautiful things that simply is. It has a life and power all its own.
I like to think of it as our great weapon against the less pleasant aspects of society. The right words can even illustrate the lighter side of the harshest of situations.
It all started in the 1920s, and it was all about the evolution of American Southern literature. It was an exciting time for writers to make a difference with their words.
After World War I, there was a creative endeavor that rose to temper the pain from and of the Civil War. It was a time when many still remembered the loss of the Confederacy in 1865, Reconstruction and the misery of slavery.
Words have enormous power to effectuate change or at the very least provide a sense of hope for change. The writers of this period were far enough away from the time of the Civil War and Slavery to provide a reasonable degree of objectivity. Writers could deal with the real stories, the ones full of pain, drama and most importantly emotion.
Everyone’s story is important. William Faulkner employed what seemed a full measure of complexity in his novel published in 1930, “As I Lay Dying.” The novel was written over six weeks between the hours of midnight and 4:00 am and not a single word was changed.
There were many writers of the day that gave voice to all people, such as Thomas Wolf, Katherine Anne Porter, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon and Tennessee Williams.
It is important to note that the Southern Renaissance was not about writing feel-good stories that make you smile. It was, however, the beginning of many great Southern writers that would take their place in history as luminaries for today’s creative writers who captivate the minds and imaginations of readers worldwide.
I contacted Doc Lawrence, who is an amazing Southern writer and a good friend. I had a few questions for him regarding the Southern Renaissance and the South.
I ask him what makes us Southerners unique? He said, “We are what we are.”
“We have a deep seeded believe in God, family and country,” he said. “We are children of war and understand sacrifice.... We hope and pray for peace, we love dearly and extend compassion to friends and strangers who are hurting.”
I asked Doc if the Southern Renaissance still alive today.
Heavens yes, he said, we had Pat Conroy who wrote “The Prince of Tides” and “The Great Santini” and then there is John Grisham who is as Southern as cornbread, and the list went on and on.
I know Doc is right, my bookshelves are lined with books written by great Southern authors.
That’s what I like about Doc, the only thing he loves more than the South is talking about the South and all the right she offers.
It’s important that we read books and more books, we need to read the newspaper every day. We learn a few things along the way, and we keep our minds working.
I do believe that the Southern Renaissance is alive and well. I have seen it, I have heard it and I have felt it.
And don’t be surprised if one day when reading a good book by a Southern author, you find yourself saying: “Hey, who told them my story?”
Carl White is the executive producer and host of the award winning syndicated TV show “Carl White’s Life In the Carolinas.” The weekly show is in its seventh year of syndication and can be seen in the Greenville, Spartanburg viewing market on WLOS ABC 5 a.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays at WMYA My 40. Visit www.lifeinthecarolinas.com, email White at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com.