Reading Matters

Hooray for a bunch of opinionated readers

Alice Walker
Alice Walker Alicewalker Films

In case you didn’t know, you’re an opinionated bunch of readers. I like that.

Your response to my July 3 column about my recommendation of 12 pieces of Southern fiction surprised me in only one instance.

That was when a savvy friend, a bone-honest Midwesterner, said she didn’t like Reynolds Price’s novel, “A Long and Happy Life.”


“I didn’t like a single character,” she said. “Not one.”

How about the way he describes dust settling on a country road in the summertime? How about that first, long, rollicking sentence?

“No,” she said. “Nothing.”

Gaye Ingram of Louisiana wailed that I hadn’t included T.R. Pearson’s novel, “A Short History of a Small Place.” She’s right. That novel, by the Reidsville native, opens with one of the most hilarious sentences in the English language.

Ingram also mentioned Robert Penn Warren’s “All the King’s Men,” Mark Richard’s story collection, “Ice at the Bottom of the World,” Lewis Nordan’s story collection, “Sugar Among the Freaks,” Andrew Hudgins’s poetry collection, “The Never-Ending,” and Charles Portis’s novels, “The Dog of the South” and “Norwood.”

She adds more “knock-your-socks-off” reads: Valerie Martin’s 2003 historical novel, “Property,” and Elizabeth Spencer’s memoir, “Landscapes of the Heart.”

Wyn Page of Charlotte nominates Pat Conroy’s “classic” novel, “The Prince of Tides.” I second that. Maxine Taylor of Charlotte was also disappointed Conroy was omitted.

Randy Gardner of Hillsborough mentions James Lee Burke, Daniel Woodrell and William Gay.

Christine Kushner, former chair of the Wake County School Board, offered a gentle reminder that I did not include any African-American writers. She suggests Alice Walker, Ernest Gaines, Randal Kenan and Jesmyn Ward.

My bad. Let me also add Dori Sanders of Clover, S.C.

Hazel Frick of Richfield, says I omitted one of the best books by a Southern writer she’s ever read – John Hart’s novel, “Redemption Road.”

Observer arts critic Lawrence Toppman left on my desk a copy of MacKinlay Kantor’s 1937 novel, “The Romance of Rosy Ridge.” Kantor himself was not Southern, Toppman tells me, but he wrote several stories set in “a quaintly mythologized South before Margaret Mitchell set stereotypes in stone with ‘GWTW’.”

MacKinlay Kantor… ? MacKinlay Kantor… ? Of course. He wrote the 1955 novel, “Andersonville,” about the Confederate prisoner of war camp in Georgia. It won the Pulitzer the following year.

Gail Busse of Matthews wrote on a monogrammed note card: “I simply cannot believe that Charles Frazier’s ‘Cold Mountain’ was not on your list.”

Thanks, everyone. We now have a list that should last us awhile.