Academic journal article Southern Cultures

The Dear John Letters

Academic journal article Southern Cultures

The Dear John Letters

Article excerpt

They are hastily put-together things, often arriving here on the front lines in used envelopes with the flaps re-taped. Sometimes they arrive postage due. The notes inside occasionally reflect a disdain for punctuation and a distinct irreverence toward spelling. They boast of shared ancestry, philosophy, and tastes in bourbon, and sometimes all three. These are what we call the "Dear John" letters--that correspondence sent to our office care of our coeditor, John Shelton Reed, or, as many of his fans, colleagues, and groupies simply call him: "Reed."

By these letters it seems our coeditor knew, knows, or soon finally will know everybody, or he at least knows of somebody who knows [your name here]. This is borne out by the editorial staff's seldom forays out of the trenches and up into the real world, where chance encounters always turn into discussions about Reed. "Reed says West Virginia isn't in the South." (Reportedly an actual classroom quote.) "Does he still have that picture of Reagan on his desk?" (He does.) "Does he still wear that same sort-of-tweed sports jacket?" (Yes, in all weather.)

Of course, we've greatly benefited at Southern Cultures by having him around. One of the many ways is by his regular contribution of his provocative South Polls feature. (Interested readers will find this issue's South Polls is no less provocative in its discussion of the most important southerners of the last century.) In a missive that defies the usual style of letters to Reed, Gaines M. Foster, associate professor of history at Louisiana State University, wrote to let us know that he thinks the findings from South Polls over the years can be condensed into "a prototypically southern statement." We print his letter below.

Our Dear John letters never indicate a break-up or the presence of more salient interests--new loves--that can only ruin a relationship. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.