James Still (1906–2001) has cast a long shadow. A diverse canon of ‘Appalachian’ literature has emerged in recent decades, and many authors, including Ron Rash, Lee Smith, and Silas House, have acknowledged River of Earth as the book that inspired them to write about their home region. Some writers from outside Appalachia, such as Wendell Berry, have similarly cited Still as a formative influence.
Still, were he here today, would undoubtedly not claim credit for founding a regional literary movement. He dearly loved the region to which he moved when a young college student (after growing up in Alabama). Yet, Still often told interviewers and friends that he thought of himself as a Southern writer and that he yearned to be considered in the company of William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, and Flannery O’Connor.