Widely popular authors such as Flannery O’Connor, Conrad Aiken, and James Alan McPherson — all born in Savannah — have put the city on the map.
Perhaps it is because of these literary heavyweights, that today, our city is brimming with writers, all lured by the promise of inspiration, community, and cheap vices.
As if the torch has been passed, these writers workshop chapters at Flannery’s Childhood Home, crowd Savannah coffee shops for open mic nights, and publish books that speak to the contemporary South they know and love.
“Well, Lit” is my attempt to spotlight these new voices from Savannah and from the South. This column will be mostly book reviews, hopefully sprinkled with the occasional author interview. So, Savannah, send me your books!
For now, here’s a quick roundup of recent literary highlights out of Savannah.
“Congratulations, Who Are You Again?” by Harrison Scott Key (2018)
Harrison Scott Key’s second memoir is a humorous look at the process of writing, publishing, and touring for his first book, “The World’s Largest Man.” After deciding to write a funny book in his late 20s, he discovers the path to becoming a famous author is scattered with unexpected lows, such as being rejected by Terry Gross and meeting his father’s first wife, the woman he called a “hussy” in print. There are moments of joy in this journey as well: winning the Thurber Prize for humor and seeing his wife’s sarcasm elicit adoration from readers at his expense. Key’s signature wit paves way to tenderness as he watches his dream take shape in ways he could’ve never expected.
“Savannah Sideways: A collection of observations” by Jessica Leigh Lebos (2018)
The first observation Jessica Leigh Lebos makes in this collection is “I guess it’s pretty obvious from the get-go that I’m not from around here.” The New Jersey-Arizona-California transplant made Savannah her home in 2006 and pledged to see the Hostess City from every perspective imaginable. The resulting volume of essays is her attempt to “turn the clichés about ... the South upside down and sideways.” Fans of her Civil Society column will recognize a few stories from 2011 to 2018; “A Landlubber’s Expedition to Grey’s Reef” is a personal favorite. Lebos’ natural curiosity, humor, and affection for Savannah make for more than just a delightful read. “Savannah Sideways” is an important spotlight on the people who love and care for our quirky city.
“Priestdaddy: A Memoir” by Patricia Lockwood (2017)
Known for her humorous and wholly original voice, poet Patricia Lockwood took a detour from verse to publish a memoir about growing up with her father, a married Catholic priest. “Priestdaddy” is equal parts hilarious and shocking, full of details too strange to be fiction, such as her father’s total faith in the Gay Inkblot Test or his delight in mooing at feminists. (Yes, mooing – like a cow.) Lockwood tackles family, religion, and identity with clear-eyed and searing wit and no shortage of smutty metaphors. The memoir was widely popular, earning Lockwood the Thurber Prize for Humor as well as a spot on The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2017.
“Harrington's Way” by Susan Earl, a novel about Savannah neighbors coming together to form a community.
“Among the Living” by Jonathan Rabb, a novel about a Holocaust survivor making a new home in Savannah.
Ariel Felton received her B.F.A. in English from Valdosta State University and her M.F.A. in Writing from SCAD. Her writing has been published in The Progressive, The Bitter Southerner, Scalawag, Under the Gum Tree, Savannah Magazine and more.