Author Topic: "Southern Gothic" literature  (Read 1947 times)

Mobius

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"Southern Gothic" literature
« on: February 07, 2021, 11:37:27 PM »
Hey lads,

Currently enjoying "The Devil All The Time" and have just come off a big Cormac McCarthy binge, and looking for similar recommendations.

I've only just discovered this genre but it's this sort of stuff

Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic fiction in American literature that takes place in the American South.

Common themes in Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may be involved in hoodoo, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.


I'll be checking out some William Faulkner as he appears to be the grandaddy of the genre and probably the closest to Cormac, but does anyone have any other recommendations? I'm not expecting anything to match up to Blood Meridian but hoping to somewhat capture the vibe.

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2021, 12:58:02 AM »
It’s been a fair number of years since I read it, and I’m not sure how easy it is to get hold of (there doesn’t seem to be an ebook available) but Paris Trout by Pete Dexter left an impression on me. A very dark tale which starts from a premise that sounds not dissimilar to To Kill a Mockingbird but goes in a very different direction.

http://www.randomhousebooks.com/books/40209/

Quote
Pete Dexter’s National Book Award–winning tour de force tells the mesmerizing story of a shocking crime that shatters lives and exposes the hypocrisies of a small Southern town.
 
The time and place: Cotton Point, Georgia, just after World War II. The event: the murder of a fourteen-year-old black girl by a respected white citizen named Paris Trout, who feels he’s done absolutely nothing wrong. As a trial looms, the crime eats away at the social fabric of Cotton Point, through its facade of manners and civility. Trout’s indifference haunts his defense lawyer; his festering paranoia warps his timid, quiet wife; and Trout himself moves closer to madness as he becomes obsessed with his cause—and his vendettas.


chveik

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2021, 01:03:52 AM »
Flannery O'Connor's short stories & Wise Blood

Captain Crunch

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2021, 12:10:23 PM »
I really enjoyed Mr Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt, blurb:

Quote
Nat and Ruth are young orphans, living in a crowded foster home run by an eccentric religious fanatic. When a traveling con-man comes knocking, they see their chance to escape and join him on the road, proclaiming they can channel the dead - for a price, of course

Decades later, in a different time and place, Cora is too clever for her office job, too scared of her abysmal lover to cope with her unplanned pregnancy, and she too is looking for a way out. So when her mute Aunt Ruth pays her an unexpected visit, apparently on a mysterious mission, she decides to join her.

Together the two women set out on foot, on a strange and unforgettable odyssey across the state of New York. Where is Ruth taking them? Where has she been? And who - or what - has she hidden in the woods at the end of the road?

Ingenious, infectious, subversive and strange, Mr Splitfoot will take you on a journey you will not regret - and will never forget.

It does that thing where it alternates from the past to today every other chapter but it works quite well, not too affected.  It also has a nice balance between being overtly Gothic (the spooky castle, séances etc) and very modern. 

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2021, 01:28:18 PM »
William Gay is good.

One thing I wouldn't bother with is that recent Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Thought that was silly tosh. Started ok but then, I dunno, I just got really put off by the way the heroine had to be so stunningly beautiful.

icehaven

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2021, 12:33:21 AM »
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is a great non-fiction novel in the same tradition.

Mobius

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2021, 06:35:33 AM »
Thanks for the recommendations everyone! Not sure which one I'll go for yet, just coming towards the end of "The Devil All The Time" now and it was really good

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2021, 09:48:23 AM »
A couple of "Southern Gothic" books that I really enjoyed were A Feast of Snakes by Harry Crews, and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.

kngen

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2021, 05:43:07 PM »
Pinckney Benedict's short stories are more Appalachian than Southern, but fit the bill: lots of trailer park drug deals, dog fights and damaged goods, written long before TV shows like Justified and Ozark put such things in vogue. Can highly recommend Town Smokes and The Wrecking Yard. His one novel, Dogs of God, is slightly less compelling, but still very readable.

He was supposed to be 'the next big thing' in American literature after Town Smokes came out when he was 22 - a kind of rural Brett Easton Ellis. Don't know if the novel's lukewarm reception crushed his spirit, but he only published one more collection of stories after that, 17 years later, and seems to exist almost purely in academia instead. A shame, as Netflix should be beating a path to his door to adapt any number of his stories into movies or miniseries instead of utter bilge like Hillbilly Elegy.

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2021, 10:12:39 PM »
You could try Nic Pizzolatto's debut novel Galveston, which he wrote before creating True Detective.

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2021, 12:43:47 AM »
Thanks for the recommendations everyone! Not sure which one I'll go for yet, just coming towards the end of "The Devil All The Time" now and it was really good

I can't recommend this author's short stories, Knockemstiff, enough. They were for me some of my favourite shorts I can remember reading. All have this kind of tone, but generally in a more contemporary setting. Knockemstiff is the actual name of the small town Donald Ray Pollock comes from, and every story is set there, with some overlapping characters, etc, so it feels a lot like a first novel in some senses. For me it was a more concentrated dose of the novel, if that's even possible.

Mobius

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2021, 12:49:18 AM »
Oh nice, thank you. I hadn't even considered Knockemstiff was an actual place because the name is so ridiculous, but of course it would be.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knockemstiff,_Ohio

Definitely a fitting place for these sorts of stories!

Retinend

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2021, 01:38:15 PM »
I love Faulkner... in theory. At his best, e.g. in "Light in Agust" or "The Sound and the Fury", he evokes the same atmosphere as the pessimistic so-called "realist" authors had done in the old world: depicting a family's fortunes in decay, and embittered by its own failure to hold up its own standards.

Flaubert, Zola, Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Butler and Fontane all wrote about same sort of family dramas as Faulkner liked to write about: son betrays father, father betrays family, the world betrays all of their expectations. Thematically, therefore, he is not too far away from -for example-  Steinbeck's more proletarian stories, coming after the Great Depression rendered the entire country "gothic", in terms of people's literary tastes.

I say I love his writing "In theory" because in practice a lot of his prose is a slog, and I would often appreciate the intent of the thing, moreso than the experience of reading it.  Take this example from "Absolom Absolom":

Quote
Surely it can harm no one to believe that perhaps she has escaped not at all the privilege of being outraged and amazed and of not forgiving but on the contrary has herself gained that place or bourne where the objects of the outrage and of the commiseration also are no longer ghosts but are actually people to be actual recipients of the hatred and the pity. It will do no harm to hope - You see I have written hope, not think. So let it be hope. -that the one cannot escape the censure which no doubt he deserves, that the other no longer lack the commiseration which lets us hope (while we are hoping) that they have longed for, if only for the reason that they are about to receive it whether they will or no

He is deemed a "modernist" ...but I think he is in better company with these aforementioned writers, since the experimentalism was never embraced to the same self-conscious, polysemous ends as Joyce's, TS Eliot's, or Beckett's writings ("proper" modernism).

He is "modernist" in whatever sense Hemingway is also said to have be modernist in style, which might seem a funny comparison, because where Hemingway is laconic, Faulker is effusive. Nevertheless they both have the same sensibility of maximizing dialogue and minimizing explicit narration, in a search for authenticity and in reaction to the 19th century tendency towards sentimentality.

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2021, 05:16:35 PM »
It's the horror end of Southern Gothic, rather than crime, but Michael McDowell's "The Elementals" is a superb read. Supernatural shenanigans and sinister family secrets in a group of houses on Alabama's gulf coast.

Keep meaning to read more of his stuff. I've got his epic Blackwater waiting on my shelf and should really crack it open.

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #14 on: February 11, 2021, 06:05:58 PM »
Can't speak for the quality as I've not read it, but this definitely fits the brief:



Quote
Fevre Dream is a 1982 vampire novel written by American author George R. R. Martin. It is set on the antebellum Mississippi River, beginning in 1857, and has been described by critics and Martin himself as "Bram Stoker meets Mark Twain".[1][2] About writing the novel, Martin said that "It was strongly influenced by the time I spent in Dubuque, Iowa, where river steamboats were once built".[3]

Captain Crunch

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2021, 10:26:14 AM »
Pinckney Benedict's short stories are more Appalachian than Southern, but fit the bill: lots of trailer park drug deals, dog fights and damaged goods, written long before TV shows like Justified and Ozark put such things in vogue. Can highly recommend Town Smokes

Really enjoyed this thank you. 

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #16 on: February 23, 2021, 11:10:29 AM »
It’s been a fair number of years since I read it, and I’m not sure how easy it is to get hold of (there doesn’t seem to be an ebook available) but Paris Trout by Pete Dexter left an impression on me. A very dark tale which starts from a premise that sounds not dissimilar to To Kill a Mockingbird but goes in a very different direction.

http://www.randomhousebooks.com/books/40209/

Started this last night thanks to your recommendation. Really enjoying it. I'm having fun imagining Richard Osman as Trout.

Twit 2

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #17 on: February 24, 2021, 12:29:17 AM »
Obligatory mention of Thomas Ligotti. I just adore the way his drab, decayed townscapes stand in for the drabness and tawdriness of reality in general; the tension between the familiarity of the repetitively non-descript settings and the incredibly specific prose, between the quotidian and the utterly surreal. I find him an immensely sophisticated writer, hugely compelling. The feeling of unease and dread he creates out of run-down American urban settings is masterful. Exquisite prose + blackest of the black humour + rather profound nihilist/existential philosophy is tailor-made for my fucked brain.

Mobius

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #18 on: February 24, 2021, 03:08:07 AM »
^ I should check some of his stuff out, keep hearing his name mentioned. Didn't that True Detective show basically rip him off or something?

I've just finished Cormac McCarthy's Child Of God, so will probably have a little Cormac break as that's 3 in a row of his I've done now.

Might do that The Heavenly Table as I really enjoyed Devil All The Time

Or I could l read something that doesn't involve incest and rape and poverty and racism? Nah fuck it.

Twit 2

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #19 on: February 24, 2021, 08:03:48 AM »
Oh yes, True Detective series 1 is steeped in Ligotti.

I reckon Teatro Grottesco is a good starting point.

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #20 on: February 24, 2021, 10:20:25 AM »
Has Ligotti written any full-length novels? I looked through his bibliography and it seems to be mostly collections of short stories, and short stories are not really my thing.

Twit 2

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #21 on: February 24, 2021, 10:48:36 AM »
No, it’s all short stories. But they are incredible and compress so much into so little space. They vary in length, though, so there’s some quite meaty extended (oo-er) ones too. They could be the thing that converts you to the short story form. He’s such an incredible writer, I’d be very surprised if you didn’t like it.

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #22 on: February 24, 2021, 03:00:31 PM »
Ok cheers, I'll probably give Teatro Grottesco a go then. I have enjoyed some short story collection in the past, and Ligotti's stuff does seem very interesting.

samadriel

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #23 on: February 25, 2021, 04:28:25 AM »
It's encouraging to hear he specialises in short stories - even in good movies and books, I constantly think "this could be half as long", so I delight in short stories. My only Ligotti experience was The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, which I hated, but I've seen some really good passages from his stuff, so I'm not put off.

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #24 on: February 25, 2021, 09:04:16 PM »
Started this last night thanks to your recommendation. Really enjoying it. I'm having fun imagining Richard Osman as Trout.

Good stuff. I might’ve considered re-reading it myself, but I’ve got a pile of unread novels to work through.

Another author I’ve always meant to take a look at is Daniel Woodrell, although I think his stuff is generally set in the Ozark Mountains, so not Southern Gothic as such.

Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #25 on: February 25, 2021, 09:33:17 PM »
Good stuff. I might’ve considered re-reading it myself, but I’ve got a pile of unread novels to work through.

Some of the sexual stuff is a bit full-on. Seems a bit 'I am wanking as I write this'. I'm about to start the final chapter so just read about Bonner's wife wanking him off under the table at the New Year's Eve party. I've never heard it done that way (squeezing the top of the penis to open and close "the mouth"), might give it a try later and let you know how I get on.


Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #26 on: February 26, 2021, 11:24:45 AM »
Nope. Nothing. Felt like a ventriloquist.

kngen

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Re: "Southern Gothic" literature
« Reply #27 on: February 28, 2021, 01:43:36 PM »
Really enjoyed this thank you.

Nice one. Glad you liked it.

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