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The American South, it has been said, is the most European of the nation's sections in manner and outlook, distinct enough that it may be reckoned to have its own--slippery term--culture. Its literature, language, climate, economy, cuisine, and history are recognizably different from those of New England and the Midwest, and even today Southerners remember that their homeland was once an independent nation crushed by a foreign military power. These may be justifications enough to warrant this massive regional encyclopedia, although a few questions go a-begging. (What, for instance, would an encyclopedia of American culture writ large contain? Do the mountaineers of Tennessee share a culture with the Gullah-speaking farmers of the South Carolina coast? Just what does culture mean, anyway?) In any case, the editors have assembled a fine roster of contributors who write on sweeping topics--African American life, agriculture, literature, the "mythic South," and the like--elaborated on by short essays on narrower subjects. The book was rightly voted Best Reference Book of 1989 by the American Library Association.
From Library Journal
Defining the South as existing as a "state of mind both within and beyond its geographical boundaries," and culture as a series of "historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms," this monumental reference work analyzes in both broad strokes and minute detail all things southern. In some 24 sections every aspect of southern culture is explored, dissected, and described, from agriculture to women's life. Each section includes an overview essay, alphabetically arranged thematic articles, and brief topical/biographical sketches. All articles are signed, and the cast of contributors numbers in the hundreds. While the sections on literature and music are among the longest, there are excellent sections on black life, folk life, social class, violence, etc. Two of the most fascinating, "history and manners" and the "mythic south" discuss all things quintessentially southern--barbeque, chitterlings, fried chicken, mint juleps, and moon pies--or viewed as southern--good old boys and girls, moonlight-and-magnolias, and rednecks. Biographical sketches number 250 living and deceased and include a cross section of representative figures from Daniel Boone to Elvis Presley. A worthy complement to the Encyclopedia of Southern History (LJ 4/1/80), this is a stunning achievement in the field of regional reference works and bargain priced to boot. - Brian E. Coutts, Western Kentucky Univ. Lib., Bowling Green Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.
I have been reading and looking things up in this huge 1600 page book since it first came out more than 20 years ago. I moved to Florida 50 years ago back when North Florida was still southern. This book is a must for anyone who wants to understand the distinctive culture of the South.
For example, when I first moved to Jacksonville in 1960, I remember hearing about "having an RC and a Moon Pie" for lunch. The encyclopedia will tell you all about that. Ralph McGill was the editor of the Atlanta Constitution 50 years ago and hated by many white southerners. This big book will tell you why.
Everything gets covered, from the "Lost Cause" to the epic literature of the South including William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Tom Wolfe and others. Music is not shorted, either, from the original blackface minstrel shows to the Grand Ole Opry; it's all there for your edification and enjoyment.
It's a pricey book, but I got a deal by purchasing a used one at Amazon.
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Well, if it has to do with Southern Culture- it is in this HUGE book- like a zillion pages, weighs a ton. I bought this as a gift for a relative who asked to have her family tree done, and I found not a person north of the Mason-Dixon line in her history, thought she might enjoy the book as an adjunct. Bought 2 of them since I have another "damn rebel" friend....
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