Inspired Reading

The theme of the Alabama Writers Symposium was the sense of place. All of the presentations really made me think about Alabama and southern literature in a whole new way; and as a result, I decided that I would make an effort to familiarize myself with more Alabama and southern authors. I've read To  Kill a Mockingbird, of course, but I have never read anything by Truman Capote (though I've seen Breakfast at Tiffany's several times). On Sunday, I went to the bookstore and bought Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms.

I chose this novel because it is one of his earliest and because it is part of the Southern Gothic tradition. Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Published when Truman Capote was only twenty-three years old, Other Voices, Other Rooms is a literary touchstone of the mid-twentieth century. In this semiautobiographical coming-of-age novel, thirteen-year-old Joel Knox, after losing his mother, is sent from New Orleans to live with the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at Skully’s Landing, the decaying mansion in rural Alabama, his father is nowhere to be found. Instead, Joel meets his morose stepmother, Amy, eccentric cousin Randolph, and a defiant little girl named Idabel, who soon offers Joel the love and approval he seeks.

I loved the cover, too. The photo is of a young Capote, and he looks so very haunted. Idabel, the young tomboy in the novel, is based on Harper Lee. I thought so as I began to read about her, but I confirmed it with some research yesterday. The story is strange, sad, and wonderful. Though Capote let jealousy ruin his relationship with Harper Lee, he shouldn't have because his writing is amazing. (PS: To those who still believe the myth that Capote wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, you are really fooling yourself. His writing style and Lee's are totally different...and, yes, we do have other writing by Lee for comparison. I had never met someone who believed Capote wrote Lee's novel until the other day, and I was shocked that anyone would buy into that idea. Ugh.)

Anyway, as time goes by, I will post thoughts and reviews of these books on my book blog, The Friendly Reader. I am really looking forward to venturing into southern literature. I never did before because I felt strange about it. The thing is that, when you live something, it almost feels too close to touch. But the symposium gave me a different outlook on my own outlooks about my state, my inherited culture and past, and everything else. So, here is to a new doorway.


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