dirac, on Jul 29 2009, 10:37 PM, said:
Was 'The Mind of the South' really hateful, Patrick? I didn't detect hatefulness. (Love-hate, yes.)
Yes, in some ways it was, dirac. And precisely for some of the things we love just now in this thread. His attempt to destroy literally everything about the Southern ethos is borne of his own self-hatred. He not only trashed Margaret Mitchell, but even said Faulkner was guilty of 'subscribing to the Southern Myth'. And also that, in the certainly vainglorious claims of some Southerners that there culture was the greatest in history, he then concluded things like that, if Southerners were not buying recordings of classical music in some stores he surveyed, that they had 'really almost no culture at all'. Much of the Southern Myth is hyped-up nonsense, but New Orleans is proof that it reall exists in a unique form, even after Katrina. I went there again for the first time since childhood, just 4 months before Katrina, and I said yes, THIS is what proves that there really is a such thing as a Unique Southern Culture. And, although there are visually and decoratively other lovely Southern old cities, like Charleston and Savannah, it is New Orleans that is an utter original. He was simply unwilling to give any credit for a very difficult region, and certainly blood-drenched and with hideous problems of poverty and racism in much daily life, but he simply reduced it too far, while along the way he did do many polemics against Southern tradition and bigotry that were very astute and well-placed. But every single tradition needs that, whether French or English or Chinese. I might also note that, stupid as it was for Southerners to think their culture was 'the greatest', since it was a very young and undeveloped one as it was, that was not unlike some of Gingrich's statements about American culture when he and the Toefflers were big. I was pretty young when I read it, but even though I now respect 'Gone With the Wind', and do also think it is a truly great film, I could have listened to that part MAYBE about the 'false Southern myth', but, oh brother, when he started in on Faulkner, I said 'wait a minute, kid. There's whippersnappers, and then there's whippersnappers.'
You could still call it 'love/hate', I suppose, but I could remember very few things he said except that the stereotype of 'the true Southern lady and her kindness' is true, of course, and also he did say that 'the South by now had a flourishing literature'. I don't know, I don't mean I don't think it's a great book in some ways, but as a Southerner myself, you have to go through some of that battle within yourself, and I came out knowing that I belonged in a big city that the South doesn't have anything like, but I changed my mind about a lot of the things that he condemned and that I agreed with him about at the time.
Like what you said about the distinctions among the ruling classes. Indeed it is about much more than moonlight and magnolias.