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.
“I don’t know anything else. You see, I was born in North Georgia, in Dalton, the town that has figured in my books as ‘Darley,’” explained novelist Will N. Harben to a reporter in a 1905 interview. “So that while I am not one of the people about whom I write—for there is the sharpest […]
The habits of these folk, as I remember them when I was a child, were generous and hospitable. There was much rivalry between women in household matters. Certain recipes in pastry and pickles and medicine were handed down in families from generation to generation. There were few formal dinners, but cover for the accidental guest […]
The following piece is an excerpt from “The Tall Woman”. The main character, Lydia McQueen, wants to build a school for the children in her valley, but one of the men in town, Ham Nelson, opposes the idea.
He was at work in the field. The sweat ran in trickles down his back and cascaded from his eyebrows into his eyes. The world was still and bright and fiery in the blaze of a July noon. He rested between the plow handles behind the mare. Sweat traced little rivers down the legs of […]