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Wiki says: A southern belle (derived from the French word belle, ‘beautiful’) is an archetype for a young woman of the AmericanOld South’s upper class.
Well maybe the definition of a Southern Belle is a little archaic and superficial, but I plan to become more intimately acquainted with those states who once made up a Confederacy.
For better or worse, Michigan has always been my home. Although I often detested and felt limited by the small town I was raised in, heading back to MI from college, Chicago, and then NYC was always a trip that I looked forward to. There’s a feeling of calm when you’re heading back to a world so recognizable – knowing every street, where the creaky floor board is, how to sneakily turn up the heat on the pool just enough that your dad won’t notice, and being able to walk to the bathroom in the dark without tripping and no fumbling for lightswitches, since hell, you’ve been in the same house you entire life (well, except for the first eight months but who’s counting).
Well as of last week, the life I knew has changed by… 692.77 miles and an 11 hour drive (Mapquest).
That’s right, folks, my parents, Northerner’s born and bred, have relocated to Tunica, Mississippi! You may be familiar with the city (no judgments here) because it is the third most popular gambling destination in the United States, behind Vegas and Atlantic City! My Dad is not a professional poker player and I doubt my mom will ever wear the costume of a cocktail waitress, but they will live a mere ten minutes from the lights of the casinos.
My mom and I road-tripped down to Tunica last week for the final move – the two of us, Skippy the dog, and a load of my mom’s favorite plants (the “greenhouse” had much more room than poor Skippy and I who had to share the front seat!). Tunica is a very cute little town overflowing with nice, friendly southerners. I got my hair done (note to self: always get hair done in South; much better pricing than NYC extravagance!) and in that two hours, was given a brief lesson in Southern etiquette and history.
But I need to know more. The South truly is a different world. Not only do people have accents (which is #1 on my Southern Belle list – I hope to pick mine up over the Christmas holidays) but a different history than what I grew up with. So while I’m searching for all the light switches in our new house next time I visit (when I left after my stay, there were outdoor lights on that we had no idea how they came on, or how to turn off!), I plan to be educating myself on the life from my perch in NYC.
My Southern Book List:
- THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett (obviously I’ve already read this – who hasn’t – but it’s imperative I reread, which will be better understood in my review)
- CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER by Tom Franklin
- LOOKING FOR SALVATION AT THE DAIRY QUEEN by Susan Gregg Gilmore
- HUNK CITY and MODERN BAPTISTS by James Wilcox
- GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell (my FAVORITE book – and I’ve been needing a reason to reread this classic tome! I did just purchase as an ereader, because my collector’s leather bound edition (Thanks OAD & OUB!) is both heavy and delicate
- INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL by Harriet Jacobs
- SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT by Beth Hoffman (I’ve already read, enjoyed and reviewed this recently released debut novel, but feel it’s very relevant to this list as CeeCee made her way South from Ohio)
- REASONS FOR AND ADVANTAGES OF BREATHING by Lydia Peelle (thanks to Beth Fish Reads for her review of this Southern-based collection of short stories)
- PLANTING DANDELIONS: Field Notes from a Semi-Domesticated Life by Kyran Pittman (This upcoming Summer 2011 release from Riverhead Books promises to be funny and insightful from a Canadian perspective in Arkansas – I suggest following @KyranPittman on Twitter!)
I wouldn’t even know where to begin to make this a Southern Belle Challenge, but I would love to hear if anyone wanted to dive in to the deep south with me! Also, I’m sure I’m missing valuable southern literature so please y’all, feel free to make suggestions.
How serendipitous – I return from my own blogging disappearance to share my thoughts on the debut novel, THE ART OF DISAPPEARING.
My own disappearance is nothing like in the novel – I didn’t travel to another dimension or get lost in a hidden pocket of space or have a spur-of-the-moment wedding in Vegas (though I think my mom wondered when I called her quite late from the Caribbean!)… But we are not Toby and Mel.
Toby Warring and Mel Snow have a relationship that began unconventionally – having met in a desolate diner in a small town in Nevada, just outside the circle of the Vegas lights then married within 48 hours upon arrival in Sin City (sober, I’m compelled to add). Toby is not merely a magician who pulls rabbits out of hats, but has the ability to create his own magic not relying on illusions and tricks of the eye. Mel accepts Toby’s abilities/magic without reluctance (I’m a big fan of magic myself, but this was more than mind tricks and into the realm of paranormal – I would definitely have been a little more freaked out about his abilities – except white wine to red and vice versa sounds fun).
The paranormal comes from more than just Toby’s abilities. Though he has no malicious intent (no black magic here), he doesn’t always have control over his abilities. Most notably, he lost his past assistant and girlfriend Eva in the middle of a magic trick. Though Mel’s career seems more grounded in reality (less “woo woo,” as Catherine Coulter would say), she can hear fabrics sing to her.
A little odd right? A magician with real abilities and a consultant who can hear fabrics sing. A story that may have unraveled or gone up in smoke (lame puns intended), debut author Ivy Pochoda has a way with words that keeps the story moving. She lyrically and poetically describes magic in a way that makes this novel less “woo woo” (as Catherine Coulter would say) and crafts into a love story grounded in reality… if you’re willing to bend your imagination to contend with hidden “pockets” in the air, into which people and objects magically appear and also hide.
I think the characters were drawn together over shared loneliness. Both were haunted by happenings in their past – Toby his missing assistant along with the tragedy that happened in Vegas, and Mel with her brother that feel too deeply in love with water. I wanted more between the characters – it never clicked to me as to why they were together; what compelled them to love the other. And maybe that’s why it ended the way it did (I don’t want to ruin anything – read it yourself!) – because it was more a relationship of timing and the shared need to shed loneliness than a real partnership
I’m thrilled that TLC Book Tours introduced me to the writing of Ivy Pochoda – Marilyn Dahl of Shelf Awareness says it best with “Ivy Pochoda has written a lyrical novel that will enchant you with a love story and with poetic, evocative prose.”