The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists

The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists

The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists

The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists


The Storied South features the voices--by turn searching and honest, coy and scathing--of twenty-six of the most luminous artists and thinkers in the American cultural firmament, from Eudora Welty, Pete Seeger, and Alice Walker to William Eggleston, Bobby Rush, and C. Vann Woodward. Masterfully drawn from one-on-one interviews conducted by renowned folklorist William Ferris over the past forty years, the book reveals how storytelling is viscerally tied to southern identity and how the work of these southern or southern-inspired creators has shaped the way Americans think and talk about the South.
The Storied South offers a unique, intimate opportunity to sit at the table with these men and women and learn how they worked and how they perceived their art. The volume also features 45 of Ferris's striking photographic portraits of the speakers and a CD and a DVD of original audio and films of the interviews.


The South is a land of talkers whose stories are as old as the region itself. We tell stories at home, on the street, in settings familiar to every southerner. Our stories transport the listener, like a leaf turning on water, into another world. The story is the inescapable net that binds southerners together. Southern writers translate the story into fiction. Scholars use story to explain the region’s history. Musicians transform story into song. And photographers and painters capture story in images. Through storytelling, the South reveals its soul. As the people in this book talk about the South, they capture its story with their distinctive voices. Unlike the traditional folk storyteller, these speakers are formally educated and consciously choose the story to define their craft as artists and thinkers. They ground their identity in story.

The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists is a collection of interviews I conducted over the past forty years. They feature a broad range of people—southerners and nonsoutherners, men and women, black and white. Together, they share a common interest in, a passion for, and an obsession with the American South that define how they write, compose, photograph, and paint. Their stories give us a unique lens through which we can explore the region. Gathered together in this book, they remind us why the human voice is key to the southern experience.

Eudora Welty told me about the day she went sailing with William Faulkner on Sardis Lake:

I went out there, and there was not any
shore…. I did not want Mr. Faulkner to think
that I was inept. So what I did was just walk
on into the water and go on out and get in the
boat. It was very simple. One, two, three. I just
waded out. I do not know if I took my shoes
off or left them on. It would not have mat
tered—through the muck. Then I got in his
sailboat. Of course, I was wet. But you cannot
ask William Faulkner to wring you out. It had
not occurred to me until this minute that I
might have. He did not say anything. I did not
say anything. Neither one of us said a word.
We took a long sailing trip, and it was real
comfortable. Nobody tried to make conversa
tion. I am sure he never made conversation. I
never got to know him well. But it was so kind
of him to do that, and he was so much fun. I
was lucky I got to meet him. I never dreamed
I would.

Welty’s story reminded me of the narrative voice she uses in her short stories and novels. In her hand, she transforms the story into a universal form with which she captures a special moment. Just as Welty felt privileged to spend a day with William Faulkner on his boat, we are privileged to visit with her and with others whose stories follow.

The story is the tie that binds each person to this book. Their tales help us feel the region’s . . .

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