Some time ago I came across a novel, supposedly about the modern South, which in no way reflected what I knew of the South today.  This was the time when the term "Sunbelt"  had just been coined.  The novel was set in the South of  Southern Gothic, and I thought the editor must not know this is no longer realistic.


     Southern Gothic is a name given to that first great wave of Southern writing.  Those stories were mostly about the remnants of the plantation aristocracy trying to hang onto their idea of themselves in a world that had left them behind.  Southern Gothic themes are dramatic and melodramatic, ancestral guilt, race as the battleground of good and evil, violence and sex and religion, the strange mingling of tragic grandeur and grotesque ccomedy, all in a setting of geat natural beauty and historic resonance.

     The plantation aristocracy is long gone.  Dreams of lost gentility are no longer authentic Southern writing.  The surface of the South is much like the rest of the country, with its subdivisions, skyscrapers, franchises, and television.  Despite it all, the South remains a distinctive region.

     Sunbelt Gothic is an urban South - still with deep taproots in Southern backcountry culture.   Migrants to colonial America from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall settled in the wooded lowlands and mountains of what became the Old South; their Celtic ways formed the traditions of this land.  If the rest of the country disdainfully viewed the South as different, the South proudly viewed itself as different.  The South was country, small town, family, suspicious of outsiders, religious, hell-raising, soft-spoken, self-educated, stubborn, gracious, loyal to the death, revengeful, traditional, hand-crafted.  The South was poor. Southerners were survivors.

     The Sunbelt South is barely a generation or two awy from these taproots.  It knows that the past lingers in the present and that tragedy and comedy meet in life.


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