Sam Burnham, Curator
I wasn't going to write about Time Magazine's 'The South Issue.' I wasn't even going to read it. But I was listening to a podcast where fellow Southerners were discussing it and it gave me a certain curiosity. Maybe this one was different. Maybe the South would get a fair deal from a major media outlet like Time, who has only paid attention to us previously when Jimmy Carter was elected and when William Faulkner won the Nobel Prize for literature.
So I went to the local library and skimmed through it to make sure it wasn't a complete waste of money. I found enough of interest that I stopped by a store on the way home and got a copy. Here is what I found:
They give a lot of attention, including the cover, to a de facto campaign campaign ad for Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams. They have a few tales of woe in which people claim to love a land that hates them when it is more likely that they just hate a land that treats them much like it does everyone. There's a section on "change agents," almost entirely dedicated to people who are doing things to make the South more like the rest of the nation, trying to make it something, anything other than Southern, all while claiming to be Southerners. It's mostly, with a few exceptions, a list of liberal progressives and their goals.
But, to their credit, Time did not stop there.
Early in the section you'll find the poem Duty by former Mississippi Poet Laureate and two-time US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey. It is a short work, easily read in a minute or two. But I spent longer with it. There is a lot in it. And the longer I looked, the more I saw.
David Joy's Deer Season isn't really about deer or even hunting. It is about people, relationships, loving and learning from friends around the fire and the progression of time and dreading the day the fire goes out for the last time. It is about losing friends and mentors, a circle of life that may be nearing it's last go round. This is a beautiful essay that is representative of so much going on the the South today. As older generations pass on, what do they leave with us? What dies with them?
National Review's David French presents an excellent essay on how the Democratic Party continues to completely miss the point of the South. I think he has a pretty good grasp on modern Southern politics. Maybe we can help him work on his drawl a little. As a lifetime Southerner, he should.
Southern expat Stephanie Powell Watts seems to have tried hard to write n essay that I wouldn't like. But after finishing and taking a moment to think about Race Day, I really appreciated it. It speaks to the power of nostalgia and the memories of youth, of enduring relationships and memories. I think it also should make us wonder if we've lost more than a racing facility in North Wilkesboro. The South lost a lot when that track, and others, were closed in favor of fancier facilities with more amenities. There's a larger story there.
I'll just say it. The Mississippi episode of Parts Unknown left me with a bit of a crush on Julia Reed. I don't think it is any more dangerous than the same thing happening when Miss Georgia catches the gaze of a nerdy middle school boy (that happened to me once as well), so think what you will. Beautiful, brilliant, a gifted writer, a sassy Delta woman, Reed's Never Meet a Stranger built on that. It also built on the tugging desire I have to revisit the Delta, taste the food, see the sights, talk to the people. The essay is amazing, the Delta is amazing, she's amazing.
I was so glad to see some real Florida as well. Lauren Groff was included with an essay showcasing the Florida I grew up with. I was like a slice of my grandparent's farm. Such a nice respite from the condos and hotels.
In all, Time did okay. The good is good enough to outweigh the bad. There is a lot of the takes you'd expect from a publication in New York covering the South but there is also some good in there as well. If you can still get your hands on a copy, I'd say it is worth the price.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire