A colleague passed along a link to a short essay by John Lane, who you may remember as the author of “The Ice Storm” and a recent campus visitor, about The South. I thought it might serve as some inspiration as you work on your “My Kind of Town” essays. Feel free to use it as a source, if you so desire. Here’s a sample:
What I’m suggesting is that the more interesting question is ‘How do writers in the South define themselves?’ Hal Crowther, the universal-genius husband of novelist Lee Smith and author of such books as ‘Cathedrals of Kudzu’ and ‘Gather at the River’, says Southerners are a stubborn people and that we should never let anyone but ourselves define us or our region.
In his essay ‘The Tao of Dixie’, Crowther tells about ‘Good Ol’ Girls’, a stage collaboration among novelists Smith, her friend Jill McCorkle and Nashville songwriters Matraca Berg and Marshall Chapman.
When the show left North Carolina and opened in New York, the “Broadway big shots”thought it wasn’t “Southern enough.” Crowther explains that the producers in New York wanted every good old girl to be Mammy Yokum.
The women created for the show were “too pretty, too smart, too normal.” New York wanted “four grits-eating grannies with big hair, bad teeth and banjoes.”
Lane’s thoughts on The South get at what’s “between the lines” of what I read in many of your Research Proposals. The facts about our towns are important and something to include and document in your essays, but the essence of your essay should get at something more about your town. What makes your town special? How does your town “feel”? What is at its “soul”?
You can see my thoughts on how I would approach this assignment here.