Two anthologies from Distributed Proofreading which have not weathered time and politics equally well.
Southern Lights and Shadows, ed. and , claims
The most noticeable characteristic of the extraordinary literary development of the South since the Civil War is that it is almost entirely in the direction of realism. Unless this was an excuse to refer to
their mountaineers, their slattern country wives, their shy rustic men and maids, their grotesque humorists, their wild religionists, even their black freedmen, under cover of compliment, I'm astounded this made sense even in 1907... the best of the stories are about rural slyness, the worst are off the back of an Aunt Jemima box, the middle is Scott boiled till lumpy. (All the men have military titles and expensive horses, there's a midnight elopement, the fair maiden turns her
horse steed across the way as the pursuers fire; none know her wound until she faints at the altar, just as her father breaks down the church door to underscore the minister's pronounciation of the holy sentence!
But she's all right, and there's a wedding announcement in the paper. )
Stories Worth Rereading is explicitly moralistic and Christianizing, but didn't get up my nose nearly as much as the first. It lives up to its own claims better. A good part of the baggage it carries along with its claims is less annoying, too; slaves preach as well as being preached to - and the evil master falls down with an agony in his guts, repentant. Plucky shoeless boys get good jobs based on their characters and diligence. Young women new to paid employment are told to get used to constructive criticism, and buckle down to it. The first American Indian to speak in court wins his case, is represented as a hero, and neither has to convert to Christianity nor to die painfully to deserve it. It's predictable and moralizing and twee, but it isn't mean. In fact, if I consider the stories as moral lessons for the people in power as well as the plucky underlings, it's perfectly healthy.
If the underlings were reading "Suffer Pluckily" stories while the scions of the rich were reading Nietszche or the like, not so healthy for the underlings. There's an argument for national curriculum.So wrote clew in Book comparisons. , Fiction (20th c.). | TrackBack