Wednesday, October 24, 2018

What is Zachary J. Lechner reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Zachary J. Lechner, author of The South of the Mind: American Imaginings of White Southernness, 1960–1980.

His entry begins:
Although my research specialization requires that most of my reading pertain to US history, I try to branch out into other areas, when possible, to keep my mind stimulated and to pick up writing techniques from other authors, including novelists.

Currently, I’m on a bit of a Joan Didion kick, inspired by my recent viewing of the 2017 Netflix documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold. I just finished reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), Didion’s classic collection of 1960s essays, many of which, in some way, detail the unraveling state of American society. The book’s centerpiece, “Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” first published in the Saturday Evening Post in September 1968, remains a stunning, fly-on-the-wall account of the San Francisco hippie scene as its initial heady idealism devolved into drug-fueled paranoia and ugliness. Didion’s image of a five-year-old child, lips coated with white lipstick, tripping on acid can still shock readers (as it did me) more than...[read on]
About The South of the Mind, from the publisher:
With the nation reeling from the cultural and political upheavals of the 1960s era, imaginings of the white South as a place of stability represented a bulwark against unsettling problems, from suburban blandness and empty consumerism to race riots and governmental deceit. A variety of individuals during and after the civil rights era, including writers, journalists, filmmakers, musicians, and politicians, envisioned white southernness as a manly, tradition-loving, communal, authentic—and often rural or small-town—notion that both symbolized a refuge from modern ills and contained the tools for combating them. The South of the Mind tells this story of how many Americans looked to the country’s most maligned region to save them during the 1960s and 1970s.

In this interdisciplinary work, Zachary J. Lechner bridges the fields of southern studies, southern history, and post–World War II American cultural and popular culture history in an effort to discern how conceptions of a tradition-bound, “timeless” South shaped Americans’ views of themselves and their society’s political and cultural fragmentations. Wide-ranging chapters detail the iconography of the white South during the civil rights movement; hippies’ fascination with white southern life; the Masculine South of George Wallace, Walking Tall, and Deliverance; the differing southern rock stylings of the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd; and the healing southernness of Jimmy Carter. The South of the Mind demonstrates that we cannot hope to understand recent U.S. history without exploring how people have conceived the South, as well as what those conceptualizations have omitted.
Learn more about The South of the Mind at the University of Georgia Press website.

Writers Read: Zachary J. Lechner.

--Marshal Zeringue