Southern Bound: A Gulf Coast Journalist on Books, Writers, and Literary Pilgrimages of the Heart

Southern Bound: A Gulf Coast Journalist on Books, Writers, and Literary Pilgrimages of the Heart

Southern Bound: A Gulf Coast Journalist on Books, Writers, and Literary Pilgrimages of the Heart

Southern Bound: A Gulf Coast Journalist on Books, Writers, and Literary Pilgrimages of the Heart

Synopsis

Southern Bound represents a running conversation on books, writers, and literary travel written for the Mobile Press-Register Books page from 1995 to 2011 by John S. Sledge. The collection includes more than one hundred of the best pieces culled from Sledge's total output of approximately seven hundred columns. Numerous classic authors are celebrated in these pages, including Homer, Plato, Gibbon, Melville, Proust, Conrad, Cather, and Steinbeck as well as modern writers such as Walter Edgar, Tom Franklin, and Eugene Walter.
While some of the essays are relatively straightforward book reviews, others present meditative and deeply personal perspectives on the author's literary experiences such as serving on the jury in the play version To Kill a Mockingbird; spending the night alone in a Jesuit college library's venerable stacks; rambling through funky New Orleans bookshops; talking to Square Books owner Richard Howorth while overlooking the Oxford, Mississippi courthouse; rereading Treasure Island on the shores of Mobile Bay; and remembering a beloved father's favorite books. Engaging and spirited, Southern Bound represents the critical art at its most accessible and will prove entertaining fare for anyone who loves the written word."

Excerpt

Walter Edgar

Where is H. L. Mencken when we really need him? in 1917 Mencken penned his famous, or infamous (depending upon your point of view) essay “The Sahara of the Bozart,” decrying the cultural sterility of the American South. It’s difficult to imagine the scorn if he were to write an essay today describing the state of book pages in the American press. To say that the book page is disappearing would be an understatement. in many newspapers across the country, the correct verb tense would be the past.

Just a little over a decade ago Kevin Berger penned an essay, “The Amazing Disappearing Book Review Section.” in it he lamented the decline in the book section of newspapers ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune to the Boston Globe and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. in the case of the Chronicle, the transformation was from a twelve-page pullout to seven pages sandwiched between “Dining Out” and “Get Together” in the Sunday entertainment section. Since then the situation has deteriorated dramatically. the Washington Post has dropped its Book World and even the New York Times has trimmed the size of its Sunday Book Review. It is increasingly rare to find a dedicated book-page editor anywhere these days.

No doubt Mencken would caustically note the creeping sands of this Sahara from the Gulf to the Great Lakes and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. However, even in his most sarcastic of moods, he often looked for what he called “violets” in the desert. in the cultural Sahara of the 1920s American South, he discovered South Carolina novelist Julia Peterkin and other talented writers.

Today, after dismissing the impoverished book scene in twenty-first century newspapers, he no doubt would begin to look for a bloom here and there. And, ironically enough, he could find one Deep South example in Mobile, Alabama, where the Press-Register is published. For the past seventeen years, John Sledge has been that newspaper’s Book Page editor and also the author of a weekly column, “Southern Bound.” Depending upon the subject of his column, Sledge has been allowed sometimes to expand into full-blown essays on a variety of topics ranging from what he terms literary . . .

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