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Outside the Southern Myth Kindle Edition

2.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Length: 232 pages

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

A southern male's forthright view of himself and of the real-life small-town culture that made him

Product Details

  • File Size: 1864 KB
  • Print Length: 232 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi (September 1, 1997)
  • Publication Date: July 31, 1997
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001MYLL2O
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,225,309 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Hardly the pity-fest that an earlier Amazon reviewer would have you take it for, Noel Polk's Outside the Southern Myth is a fascinating glimpse into a South that, although probably closer to the South that most Southerners live in, often goes ignored in literature, television, music, and film in favor of depictions of hard-drinkin' good ol' boys or genteel aristocrats. Sure, the South has plenty of both (though I haven't seen a white linen suit or a mint julep in a while), but Polk's book complicates the traditional view of Southern life and shows that a middle-class Southern experience can be just as rich, tragic, perplexing, and worthy of study as any Faulkner novel.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In the way of full disclosure, I must admit that I knew the author. We grew up together in the same town, went through 12 years of school together (grades 1-12), we were Cub Scouts together (his mother was our den leader) and I knew his father (and the store he owned and operated). We were never close friends during our early years but I enjoyed reading this book - his memories of growing up in the town of Picayune and of his life after leaving Picayune. I didn't know anything of his life after we graduated high school. But, being from the town, I was able to relate closely with his memories of his early life there. My own life was similar to his in many ways growing up. While he played in the high school band, I played sports in high school. And he was a better student than I was. We were able to meet as adults once, 40 years after graduation - he turned out to be a different person than I recall from our early years.

My background and familiarity with him therefore give me a different perspective than other reviewers of this book. I got different things from this book than they did. I think the book title is a bit misleading. While he did spend time explaining how his life was different than the stereotypical Southerner, Noel's book felt more like a recounting of his life and how he came to be the adult person he was. Anyone hoping for a full and complete exposition on the "Southern Myth" is probably going to be disappointed.

Noel stayed in the South and his academic expertise in the writings of Faulkner, Welty and other Southern authors probably gave him a much greater awareness of his Southern-ness than I have of mine. I left the South after graduating college and am now much less awash in the culture of the region than when I was growing up.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you are looking for an informed critique of the so-called Southern Myth, this book is not for you. It is a rambling, lacrymose, autobiographical account of what the writer, who grew up in a little town in southwestern MS, claims is a life untouched by the culture traditionally understood as Southern. The book lacks a clear purpose, requires the reader to wade through repetitious and muddy prose, and in the end, reaches no meaningful conclusion. A good editor would not have permitted it to go to the printer.

Polk relies on the description of the South found in popular media to define what he calls the Southern Myth. Thus, he sets up a world beyond which most Southerners have always lived. Anyone familiar with the historical, cultural, and geographical scholarship of the region in the last half of the twentieth century recognizes the hollowness of the vision of the South as a world of white-columed mansions and shotgun houses, plantations and sharecroppers, churches and racial lynchings, good old boys and cotillion queens, with a tortured history of loss and racial tension whispering around every corner. Perhaps in 1900, there might have been some point in debunking that particular vision, but not in 2000 – unless one intended to replace it with a more realistic vision. And Polk doesn't do that.

He promises to do it. He proposes to show through his personal experience that there has always been a southern culture that exists outside the fictionalized rural South and small towns with with statues of Confederate soldiers.
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In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that I was Dr. Polk's student in a graduate Faulkner seminar at the University of Southern Mississippi in 2000. Regrettably, I did not discover this book until I heard the sad news that Dr. Polk had passed away in August of 2012.

That said, I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a wonderful example of a brilliant and sensitive man following Socrates' dictum that the unexamined life is not worth living. Looking back at a childhood and young adulthood spent entirely in the South, Dr. Polk does not shy away from confronting the issues, both internal and external, that shaped him into the man he was to become, for better or worse. Although the memoir does not pull any punches when it comes to the author's condemnation of the institutionalized racism and suffocating religious atmosphere of his native land, it shines as the reflections of a man who understands fully the role that was carved out for him by both the cultures of Picayune, MS and the United States as a whole, and who nonetheless refuses to be defined as anything other than the individual who is Noel Polk.
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