Savannah and the Southern Mystique
The Southern Mystique is not really a tangible item. Nonetheless, the concept has been widely explored by scores of writers from all around the country. Even though residence in Dixie is not a pre-requisite, most of the practitioners draw from family ties that are well rooted in the South. Whether it is due to the dense canopy of subtropical vegetation or the many blocks of 18th century architecture, Savannah is an attractively-designed city that draws large numbers of visitors from both near and afar. Perhaps it is the so-called Southern mystique or perhaps not, but still this port city has been home to more than on prominent writer.
Most recently, the city was the scene of a very popular book and movie entitled, “Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil“. Though the writer, John Berendt, was a New Yorker, employed for a long time by Esquire Magazine, he was able to re-create an evocative tale that was read by millions of readers around the world. While recently attending a local book festival in Savannah, I gradually became aware of an attitude that places this literary effort outside the realm of Southern writing, despite its popularity as a piece of literature. Nobody really questioned the validity of the story or its portrayal of Savannah. The book just seems to fail to transcend that invisible barrier, which unites Southern writers.
While at the same conference I came across a glossy, four-color brochure, detailing something called the “Southern Literary Trail“. After complaining to the lady behind the desk, as to why New Orleans was not included, a picked up a copy and brought it back with me. Even despite not including the city that sheltered such Southern writers, such as Williams, Percy, Foote and Capote, I was intrigued by the tour that ran from Savannah, Georgia to Oxford, Mississippi. Flannery O’Connor was Savannah’s great contribution to a list that also included Alice Walker, Harper Lee, Eudora Welty and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Despite the absence of the cities of Charleston and New Orleans, the tour did cross through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, visiting homes and important sites along the way. For those, interested in Southern literature, this journey could be accomplished in a day, though longer periods of time are recommended.