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Outside the Southern Myth Hardcover – July 1, 1997
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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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not mired in the past = Uneducated and doomed to repeat it. That's the problem with America today and that's exactly the way this Government likes its' subjects; clueless and... Read morePublished on September 26, 2012 by Louis
As transactions go, it was perfect. Everything that is to be expected in the purchase of a book has been met in terms of condition and arrival time. Read morePublished on January 27, 2012 by JennyB
A valid, if self-serving, premise sadly negated by Polk's ham-fisted execution. "Demythologization" in the hands of a master (Marx, Bultmann, Ricoeur, even Snuffy Smith) this... Read morePublished on July 9, 2008 by a reader