A Painted House A Painted House discussion


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Is there still a market for southern literature?

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J.R. McLemore I read this book some time ago and thoroughly loved it. However, I recently browsed the book's reviews on Amazon and was surprised by the negative reviews. I know Grisham is more well-known for his legal thrillers and this book is a foray into a new and different genre for Grisham, which made me wonder whether most people gravitated toward this book because of the author's reputation, or because they were looking for a good southern story?

I've recently written a Southern Gothic, so I am very interested in hearing more readers' opinions.


Jackie I am drawn to Southern stories and A Painted House by John Grisham I rated it 4/5.


J.R. McLemore Thank you, Jackie, for answering. I never thought I would enjoy southern literature as much as I have. I've read some classics and even some more contemporary southern books. Many of them have been wonderful character studies.

When I stepped back to think about it, I began to wonder if there were still many people out there who enjoyed such stories.


Rapidio I'm a fan of select "Southern" literature, or perhaps I should say of certain authors of Southern literature., namely Pat Conroy, Dorothea Benton Frank and James Lee Burke. I would say there is still a market for it


J.R. McLemore Thanks, Rapidio, for your input. If you don't mind me asking, what, in particular, is it about these specific authors that you enjoy? Is it their use of southern vernacular, the way they construct scenes, the types of plots they use? I'm just curious. Also, have you ever read anything by Joe R. Lansdale?


message 6: by Samyann (last edited Apr 02, 2013 07:23AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Samyann I like stories with elements of the south. The south is a virtual minefield of variety in so many areas, especially when you include the antebellum era (pre Civil War). There are so many varieties even today of food, dialect, politics, and geographic variety from mountains to the Gulf. This colorful history is part of my book on reincarnation. The characters are modern day Chicagoans, but lived during the Civil War, in the south.

I read A Painted House and liked it. Sort of a To Kill A Mockingbird story. I think the reason it was panned by Grisham fans is that the book was not what they expected. I think when people are fans of a particular author, they just grabbed the latest book with an assumption of the legal thriller, because that's what he writes. When they began to read they had a knee-jerk reaction. Just imo.


J.R. McLemore So, Samyann, it's obvious you enjoy southern fiction from the Civil War, but do you also enjoy more contemporary southern fiction? For me, I found that I prefer southern fiction set in the early 20th century. Of course, the time-frame doesn't matter as long as the story is engaging.

What is the name of your book? What kind of reception has it seen since you released it? I'm curious because I will be releasing a Southern Gothic called Lathem's Lament soon. It follows a family living in a Georgia farming community during the 50s, while their oldest son is fighting in Korea.


Jackie J.R. your book sounds interesting and will be looking forward to it's release.


Samyann Yesterday: A Novel of Reincarnation has done well, I'm extremely thankful to have gotten many great reviews. You can check them out on Amazon. I think there might be some interest at the moment in the Civil War because of the 150 year anniversary, the release of the Spielberg movie, Lincoln. I'm not sure.

Most, if not all, of Grisham's book take place in the south, all sorts of time frames. Did you read The Help? That's the south in the 60s, pretty good book. There's a thread on Goodreads about it.....


message 10: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Thanks, Jackie! You're very encouraging. :)

Samyann, thanks for the link. I'm going to go check it out. To be honest, I've only read the one book by Grisham...so far. I have several more in my "to read" queue, which seems to grow exponentially faster then my "has read" pile. I saw the movie The Help, but have not read the book.

Most of the southern literature I've read have been the classics by Faulkner and Steinbeck. Although, I've also read a book by Joe R. Lansdale (The Bottoms) that I thought was very good in contrast to a book by Harry Crews (A Feast of Snakes), which was absolutely dreadful! I hated every character in that book and couldn't bring myself to finish it.

Has anyone read Cold Sassy Tree? I thought that one was a good read, too.


Sjr01 I read A Painted House many years ago. I loved it. It's my go to book if I do not have anything on hand to read...have read it a few times now...lol......I give this a 5/5 for sure. :)


message 12: by Lee (last edited Apr 05, 2013 08:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Gunter I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, consider myself a fan of "southern literature". conceptually, it sounds like it would be droll and uneventful and probably full of characters I either don't like or don't relate to.

BUT...

But I loved A Painted House (5/5 stars, which I rarely give). I personally consider it one of the best books I've ever read. It moved me, I loved the characters, and the story, while on the surface seeming plain compared to what I typically read, was very compelling - it drew me in and pushed me forward thru the book. So maybe I need to read more "southern literature" and see if I am a fan after all. Stranger things have happened.


message 13: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Lee, thanks for weighing in. Your approach to southern literature sounds like mine. Primarily, I was a fan of horror and crime fiction. I only sampled some southern literature because I neglected to when I was in school, so I decided to do so as an adult. I will admit, some of it is droll and uneventful. However, there is quite a bit of it that runs contrary to that.

A Painted House was the turning point for me when it came to southern literature. Prior to that, I had read The Grapes of Wrath and As I Lay Dying; both classics, but a bit too high-brow for me with the symbolism and characteristics that English professors like to deconstruct.

Since then, I've read books such as Cold Sassy Tree, The Bottoms, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Of Mice and Men, to name only a few. I found that I really enjoyed them. Of course, that's just my opinion, and we all know the saying about opinions, which led me to ask this questions since I also enjoy writing southern literature.

I find it interesting that you don't claim to prefer southern literature, yet you loved A Painted House. I would encourage you to read some more southern literature to see if you enjoy more stories out there as much as A Painted House. You just might broaden your reading library.


message 14: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Jackie, just an FYI, my novel, LATHEM'S LAMENT, is now available on Amazon and in paperback on CreateSpace.

NOTE: I had no intention of turning this thread into a sales pitch for my book, but she did express an interest. In keeping this thread advertisement-free, I will try to abstain from any more shameless plugs.


message 15: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Gunter J.R. wrote: "Lee, thanks for weighing in. Your approach to southern literature sounds like mine. Primarily, I was a fan of horror and crime fiction. I only sampled some southern literature because I neglected t..."

Actually, of Mice and Men (Which I had not thought to include in this category though it makes sense) is one of my favorite books as well. I remember reading it when I was younger, and it totally made em angry. I closed the book hating it. Mad as hell. It was not until a little while later that I realized how amazing it was that the writer could draw me in so much as to illicit that sort of emotional response.

What is one or two books you might recommend? I won't read them tomorrow, but I can look out for them and try to get them in my queue... :-)


Jackie J.R. wrote: "Jackie, just an FYI, my novel, LATHEM'S LAMENT, is now available on Amazon and in paperback on CreateSpace.

NOTE: I had no intention of turning this thread into a sales pitch for my book, but she ..."


J.R., I have it in my Wish List on Amazon. Also, wanted to thank you for mentioning Faulkner and Steinbeck, and others.


message 17: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore I would recommend: Ava's Man by Rick Bragg (although, this is more of a biography than a novel), Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns, and (because it is a classic, for good reasons) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Heck, I have to mention two more, sorry. The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale is also a good read, as well as, No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, which they adapted into an award-winning movie. The latter is technically a novel set in the southwest, but McCarthy has written other southern literature.

I know that's more than the one or two, but I would highly suggest The Bottoms and Cold Sassy Tree. If you enjoy those, well, then there are some others you may choose to read. Cheers!


message 18: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Thank you, Jackie, from the bottom of my heart! I'm truly humbled to hear that and I really hope you enjoy the story. I can only hope I've done the genre justice.

Of course, I have to thank the greats for being such an inspiration to us contemporary writers in the genre.


message 19: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Gunter Jackie wrote: "J.R. wrote: "Jackie, just an FYI, my novel, LATHEM'S LAMENT, is now available on Amazon and in paperback on CreateSpace.

NOTE: I had no intention of turning this thread into a sales pitch for my b..."


If it's fits the conversation, you might as well throw it in. I love reading non mainstream authors. not all become my favorites, but I think it's worth it none the less.

AND...

And I did as for recommendations. :-)

Speaking of which, thanks J.R.


message 20: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Well, as I mentioned above, it was never my intention to use this thread to plug my own book. As readers, we're deluged with authors pimping their books, especially in a time where anyone can publish drivel.

I don't want to be one of these writers who keep beating readers over the head about my books. There's just too many books out there, good and bad. If you happen to read my book, all I can do is hope you enjoy it. And, if you do, please tell your friends and other readers. After all, word-of-mouth is the best advertising an author can receive.

You all have made my day. Thank you.


message 21: by Lee (last edited Apr 05, 2013 09:41AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Gunter I want to put your book in my "to read" list here and am having trouble finding it. Anything I should know that might help fix that?

* edit *

Well bloody hell. you're downright prolific...


message 22: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Unfortunately, Lee, my book only hit Amazon's virtual shelves yesterday, so it isn't available in Goodreads at the moment. It takes a few days (maybe weeks?) to propagate through the internet into Goodreads.

I linked to the digital and paperback editions above. In addition, you can read a sample on Amazon before you choose to buy to see if it's even something you may be interested in.

Hope this clears up any confusion.


message 23: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Gunter It's all good. It caused me to go look at your page and see you've written some other stuff. Can't see how that's a bad thing.


message 24: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Yes, this isn't my first time at the rodeo, so to speak. As you will see, I don't write within only one genre. I prefer to write whatever I enjoy reading, which may be good or bad in the long run. I've heard tell that writers should stick to one genre to build an audience, but I like many different subjects. So, time will tell if this will hinder me or not.

Like I've said, and it's something I believe strongly in, I write to entertain. The readers come first. I don't make my living by writing, but it's something I love to do, so I just try to give readers the best stories I can muster. Hearing someone discuss my books is such a thrill because I can say, "Hey, I did that!" :)


message 25: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary As a southerner myself, I enjoy any fiction that is engaging and well written. There is a difference between southern literature and literature with a southern setting. The first is authentic. The latter can be, but too often is merely wallpaper southern. Some authors who have probably never even visited the south take the stereotypes and run with them. Writers should either write what they know or do some serious research first. I read a book several years ago set in the south with born and bred southern characters, yet the main character continually used y'all for the singular "you." The otherwise well written story fell flat for me because of that and southerners tend to be the most critical of southern literature that is not authentic. I see you are from Atlanta. That should give you a leg up on many. ;0)


message 26: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Welcome to the thread, Mary, and thanks for that insight. I couldn't agree with you more.

I mentioned it earlier and I'll say it again, I hope I did the genre justice. One of the harder parts of writing southern literature, in my opinion, is getting the dialect right. There is a fine line to traverse. One one side, you mire the reader down in so much slang and apostrophes that it's hard for them to wade through. On the other side, you dilute the speech until it doesn't really ring true of the south.

In addition, as you stated, there are stereotypes that are cliche and have been since Erskine Caldwell wrote Tobacco Road. While some of these characteristics are cliches, many of them are still very much evident, even today.

While writing my book, I used much of what I knew from growing up here in the south; pulling from people I happened to know and locations I've actually been to. The aspect that caused me to do some research was the era, since I was born well after the Korean conflict.

At the heart of the matter is the story. All of the trimmings are the finer details such as the dialect, mannerisms, and locales. I only hope I did it justice.


message 27: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary I haven't read your book, but not all southern literature needs dialect to be authentic IMO. Too much dialect (again IMO) often seems contrived. If the character NEEDS that dialect to contribute to the characterization and is crucial to the story, then the author should write it. However, I know too many southerners that enunciate and articulate in their speech for every character to speak in dialect. I also know that every region has different dialects and pronunciations. Tidewater southern is very different from coastal southern which is different from African-American, etc. Just my opinion again.


message 28: by Robert (last edited Apr 05, 2013 10:31AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Robert Is there still a market for southern literature? It seems to me that it gets eaten up.

A few years ago, after reading several Grisham books and enjoying them, I began to feel they were all too similar. I swore off reading any more Grisham books. Too many good authors to discover. One day my wife arrived home and said "I found a book that might remind you of your childhood." She handed me Grisham's A Painted House. I enjoyed it more than any of his other books, giving it a 4-star rating in Goodreads.

Is The Help southern literature or just a southern setting? There will aways be room for "southern literature" with me. Actually, it may be the best.


message 29: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Yes, I suppose you're right about not all southern literature needing the dialogue written with dialect. Case in point, I'm a Georgia native, yet I am mistaken for being from the north 9 out of 10 times. I blame my wife. She's from the north and an English professor to boot, so I'll just say it's because of her influence. ;)

While I can spot a southern accent like a flashing beacon on someone's head, I don't have the ear to discern where a dialect places someone. BTW, I had to look up Tidewater dialect to see what it was. Interesting.


message 30: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary Robert wrote: "Is The Help southern literature or just a southern setting? There will aways be room for "southern literature" with me. Actually, it may be the best.
"


IMO, The Help is southern literature. Having grown up in that era in the south, it rang very true to me. The author is also a southerner, which I think helps.


message 31: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary J.R. wrote: "Yes, I suppose you're right about not all southern literature needing the dialogue written with dialect. Case in point, I'm a Georgia native, yet I am mistaken for being from the north 9 out of 10 ..."

I was born and raised in Alabama, yet I have a very subtle southern accent. It nearly disappears when I put on my "formal" voice. One of my father's majors in college was English, so we were taught from a very young age to enunciate. My oldest daughter has lived overseas and most people are surprised to hear that she is from the south. Just within my state, there are many different variations of a southern accent. The northern part of the state (which was settled mainly by Scots migrating from the Carolinas and Tennessee) has a very different accent from the southern part of the state which was settled by immigrants from southern England.


message 32: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Hi Robert. Thanks for your input.

I never read The Help, only saw the movie, so I can't really say.

As I've reviewed everyone's comments, another thought came to mind: why is there a "southern literature" genre and not a genre for each region (i.e., midwest literature)? What makes southern literature stand out?


message 33: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary J.R. wrote: "As I've reviewed everyone's comments, another thought came to mind: why is there a "southern literature" genre and not a genre for each region (i.e., midwest literature)? What makes southern literature stand out? .."

Interesting question. I think that part of the answer is the southern tradition of oral storytelling. There is a different feel to the narrative of southern literature that distinguishes it from other parts of the country. There is a languidness that permeates the genre as well. Also, Midwest is the default "voice" of America. I am sure that the Civil War had something to do with the creation of a separate genre since we are the only part of the country that actually split from the rest.


message 34: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore I was born and raised in Alabama, yet I have a very subtle southern accent. It nearly disappears when I put on my "formal" voice...."

My wife is from Chicago and it's interesting when we get together with my relatives who live in the country for family functions. Just being around them for a few minutes, my southern accent tends to come out...according to my wife, who likes to point it out.

Another funny anecdote: when I a child, we visited some relatives who lived in Florida. We went to a public freshwater spring to swim and the water was very cold. I jumped in and climbed out nearly as quickly. My teeth were chattering and I said, "Shit! That water's cold." Apparently, it wasn't heard like that as a man standing nearby (apparently, from the north) said, "I didn't know there were five syllables in 'Shit'." :)


message 35: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary J.R. wrote: " "I didn't know there were five syllables in 'Shit'." :)
"


LOL!


message 36: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Gunter to me, even more than the dialect, is the southern mindset and way of thinking/doing things. You try to shove a high paced action thriller into some settings and they don't ring true. There's a pace. And different values from Los Angeles, New York and the like.

And while I live in Seattle now, I've spent many years in Missouri and Florida and most of my family is southern... just sayin'.

And y'all CAN be singular, depending on the context.In which case "all y'all" might need to me employed for larger numbers. IMHO


message 37: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Mary wrote: "Interesting question. I think that part of the answer is the southern tradition of oral storytelling. There is a different feel to the narrative of southern literature that distinguishes it from other parts of the country. There is a languidness that permeates the genre as well. Also, Midwest is the default "voice" of America. I am sure that the Civil War had something to do with the creation of a separate genre since we are the only part of the country that actually split from the rest."

Good answer! Makes a lot of sense. Speaking of oral storytelling, FWIW, there is a part of my book that was largely influenced by a ghost story my grandmother told me as a child. I won't go into details in case anyone reads the book, but it is definitely represented in the story. I'll leave it up to the readers to figure out what it is. Hint: it isn't hard to miss.


message 38: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore Lee, I think I've run into y'all being used in the singular, but only on a handful of occasions.

As for the high-paced action thriller, I've been wanting to write a southern crime thriller for some time. I really enjoy reading crime novels, but most (at least, the ones I've read) seem to take place in L.A. or New York City. I've been thinking of trying to take a page from Elmore Leonard's playbook by writing a nice little crime caper in north Georgia featuring the Dixie Mafia.


message 39: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary Lee wrote: "And y'all CAN be singular, depending on the context.In which case "all y'all" might need to me employed for larger numbers. IMHO .."

I am going to have to disagree with you on this Lee. Most of the time that people THINK that y'all is being used as singular it is either someone who is not a native southerner using it or someone missing the inferred plural. Example: 4 people are eating in a diner. One goes to the front to pay. The cashier asked," Did y'all enjoy your lunch?" Because there is only one person at the register, it would appear that the cashier was asking about that person only, when a southerner would understand it pertained to the entire table. Y'all is a contraction of you all. "All Y'all" is used to encompass an entire group whereas y'all can be as few as two people. Think "everyone" for a replacement for "all y'all."


message 40: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore I wouldn't go as far to agree that y'all can be used to indicate the singular, but I can attest to hearing it a couple of times, and from southern-born people. The one instance that comes to mind was when a boy I went to high school with approached me in wood shop (it was just the two of us as the last bell hadn't rang). He had his hands tucked into the back pockets of his jeans and, as he walked over, said, "What're y'all doin?" I'll admit, it struck me as very weird and, later, when I saw that episode of Seinfeld where George starts referring to himself in third-person, it dredged up this memory.

As Mary stated, y'all is commonly used to address more than one person. And, as Jeff Foxworthy has pointed out, Mommanyms, is used to refer to your mother and her peer group (i.e., Mommanyms down at the cloth store.) :)


message 41: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary J.R. wrote: "I wouldn't go as far to agree that y'all can be used to indicate the singular, but I can attest to hearing it a couple of times, and from southern-born people. The one instance that comes to mind w..."

It can be used, but it is incorrect grammar to do so.


message 42: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Gunter Are we really talking about correct grammar in a discussion about southern vernacular? :-P


message 43: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary Lee wrote: "Are we really talking about correct grammar in a discussion about southern vernacular? :-P"

Just because it is informal speech does not remove it from rules of grammar. :0)


message 44: by J.R. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.R. McLemore In the south, we have slightly different rules of grammar. :D Just kidding! I couldn't resist.

Honestly, I have friends and relatives who couldn't care less for the rules of grammar (obviously, not my wife, that is), and reading their correspondence or conversing with them is the equivalent of nails on a chalk board.

Have you ever heard a southerner say, "Did not done it!" Because, I have and...ugh.


message 45: by Donna (last edited Aug 25, 2013 10:03PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Donna Davis I loved this book. I felt as if he had covered legal thrillers from every single possible angle, and I was ready to be done with that (though he did it well). This was new and fresh to me. It cut across the white-middle-class stereotype. Also, I have always lived in northern cities, but my mother's people came from the south, and I felt as if I was getting an education about an entirely different culture, one that I was kin to if I reached back far enough.

Market for southern settings? James Lee Burke has certainly done well there! I think a lot of people--well okay, I can only speak for myself really, but here it is--I am sick of New York as a setting. Washington DC and LA lurk not far behind. Once in awhile I read Susan Wittig Albert, and though I don't share a lot of the writer's basic beliefs, I like reading about Texas. I don't want to go there, I just want to read about it. Same thing with Burke and New Orleans (though his writing is sufficiently compelling that if he wrote about NY I'd read it anyway!) I loved Tony Hillerman's desert southwest books, and better still, so did the Navajo he wrote about.

I have been reading more of the Scandanavian authors who seem to be red hot right now, and the setting is part of that, too. Ditto with Delaney's books in Ireland (though like James Lee Burke, I'd follow Delaney anywhere). And of course Allende, with Peru, Chile, and the USA.

What are some other books set in interesting places, but written in English for sluggards like me who can't read in another language? I've read a few set in Japan, and of course Pearl S Buck in China...lots in England...but so much of the globe is still out there waiting to become a setting!


Robert Penner I don't really enjoy legal thrillers so I was quite skeptical of Grisham at first. When I read The Painted House I was blown away. I loved it. I read it in a couple of days. My Dad grew up on a farm, so this story resinated with the stories my Dad told me. I also enjoyed The Testament. Selectively I think there is a place for Southern Lit.


message 47: by Mare (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mare Kinley I'm, I guess, a rather big fan of Southern literature. Conroy and Faulkner always make it on my ever-changing list of favorite writers. I'm sure there has been plenty of bad Southern lit, but I've apparently been fortunate to avoid it.

I usually avoid Civil War era settings because I don't want to read the minute battle details that some writers seem to get caught up in. I know there are plenty of readers who live for that; I'm just not one of them.

As far as A Painted House goes, I liked it a great deal. And as much as I get annoyed at reading many of Grisham's more recent legal thrillers (because they seem to lack the originality of his earlier novels i.e. The Pelican Brief, The Chamber, The Client) I can't seem to stop reading them either.

That's my two cents. Sorry if I went on to three.


message 48: by Mare (new) - rated it 3 stars

Mare Kinley Donna wrote: "I loved this book. I felt as if he had covered legal thrillers from every single possible angle, and I was ready to be done with that (though he did it well). This was new and fresh to me. It cut a..."

Kabul Beauty School and Wild Swans. Both of these are actually non-fiction, but read beautifully. I got a great feel for both Kabul and China, and the stories of the women featured in each book were truly compelling.


message 49: by Cateline (last edited Jun 07, 2014 06:32PM) (new) - added it

Cateline If y'all want to read "Southern", there is no one more so than William Faulkner.
Now don't go starting with The Sound and The Fury, try Flags in the Dust, or Absalom, Absalom!. You can get to the difficult stuff later. :)

Gorgeous writing, authentic settings, the whole nine yards. That was the true South. You can see the attitudes shifting, ever so slowly, evolving, even back when they were written.


Donna I feel strongly that there's still a market for southern literature. I'm embarrassed to say that, even though I'm from the South, there are still many Southern works I haven't yet read, even at my advanced age. :) I just finished Capote's The Grass Harp, and am starting Willie Morris' North Toward Home. I'm a sucker for Pat Conroy's prose. He has a way with words that has me living in the very moments of his stories. I've read A Painted House and thought it was ok, but not my favorite Grisham book.


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