Thursday, December 20, 2012

Writers of the American South

Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind,
at an old sewing table she used as her desk.
I have been dipping into Writers of the American South off and on these past mornings. It contains portraits of twenty-two Southern writers and features wonderful photos of their homes showing how a sense of place is reflected in their works. The text is written by Hugh Howard and the photos come from the camera of Roger Strauss III.

Faulkner and Foote (William and Shelby) are side by side in the book. Welty and Wolfe (Eudora and Thomas) are the final two entries in the volume. I was especially interested in those entries as they are homes I have visited. Oxford, Memphis, Jackson, and Asheville. 

And I have also spent time in the sweet town of Beaufort, South Carolina which is the adopted home of Pat Conroy (although I have never been invited to his house).

Some of the authors in this book are still alive and writing. Some are long gone and others have left their writing desks forever since the publication of the book in 2005.

I found the text to be a bit choppy but the photos of the exteriors and interiors of the homes are very fine. I am always interested to see where writers do their work. 

What sort of desks can be found here? 

Ah, well, Shelby Foote had his made from dismantled oak beams from a mill in New England. Conroy sits at a Queen Anne style desk placed facing a large window. Faulkner had his typewriter on a small table with barely room left over to hold a lamp. I can just picture him hunched over, puffing on his pipe and pounding out his saga of Yoknapatawpha County. 

Marjorie Rawlings often wrote on a handmade cypress tabletop on the porch of her house in Florida in order to catch a summer's breeze. James Lee Burke crafts his mysteries at a plain modern desk set in his spacious and well-lit office in Louisiana.  

Some of the homes are fixtures in the landscape and feature large verandas for sitting a spell (Kate Chopin - Louisiana). Others are more contemporary (Ann Patchett - Tennessee). Some are located on the water (Carl Haaisen - Florida), some are exotic (Ernest Hemingway - Key West), and some have had the city grow up around them (Margaret Mitchell - Atlanta).

And imagine this...all the homes are filled with books. Books on shelves, piled on tables, stacked on floors and counters, toppling atop bookcases. 

A helpful feature is a list of the books published by each author at the end of his or her section. A great book to browse through and a nice resource to own.


  1. How fun this book seems to be. I love to "peep" into the interiors of notables, especially writers and authors.

    1. I too am such a Peeping Tomasina when it comes to looking at photos of the places that writers work. I love glimpsing their desks and libraries.