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Wales Arts Review 3.14: The American Southern Lit Special

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Welcome to Wales Arts Review 3.14, a very special edition, in collaboration with Deep South Magazine based in Louisiana, in which we visit America’s Deep South, exploring Southern culture and the many connections, both historic and present day, Wales has to the area, some little known, others more familiar.

The edition is Guest-Edited by journalist Cerith Mathias, whose passion for the South and its authors began as a child with a dog-eared faded navy blue copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and steadily progressed to take in the words of Harper Lee, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor and many more. That first dipped-toe into Huck’s Mississippi River and the South’s deep literary waters resulted in many years of travelling and writing about the area. We are proud to publish this edition in conjunction with Deep South Magazine, an online publication in the US that covers life and culture throughout the Southern states, to which Cerith Mathias regularly contributes. Wales Arts Review would also like to thank Wales Arts International for the support in forming and developing this partnership, in particular during Cerith’s recent research trip to New Orleans.

This special edition leads with an article from American writer and videographer Trey McCain, whose love of Wales and the Welsh language led him to re-evaluate his relationship with his own native Deep South in ‘The Landscapes of Language: A Mississippian in Wales’. Welsh poet clare e. potter presents a heartfelt, emotionally raw piece on the devastating effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans, a city she called home for seven years, in the superb ‘Do You Know What it Means? Memories of Katrina’.

Staying in the Crescent City, Guest-Editor Cerith Mathias explores the tragic life of John Kennedy Toole, and the story behind his Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces, in a candid interview with his biographer Cory MacLauchlin.

A selection of Wales Arts Review’s top writers share their favourite works of Southern literature; a testament to the impact of the genre beyond its borders, the feature is split into Part 1 and Part 2.

Wales Arts Review is pleased to present contributions to this special edition from the Editor of Deep South Magazine, Erin Z. Bass. In the first of her articles she introduces the new stable of Southern writers making their mark on the region today in ‘Literature of the New South: How today’s Southern Writers are Capturing the Region in all its Glory and Awfulness’. Author Jon Gower celebrates the work of James Lee Burke, whose Detective Dave Robicheaux crime-fiction series proves a page turner not only for its plotlines but for its loving and evocative portrayal of the Louisiana landscape.

Phil Morris looks at the influence of DW Griffith’s controversial 1915 film The Birth of a Nation on the mind set of America in his essay ‘The Birth of a Nation: DW Griffith’s Distortion of History and its Legacy’. 53 years later such rhetoric was to play a part in extinguishing one man’s life, but not his Dream. Author and travel writer Tom Anderson describes the impact of a chance encounter with the words of Martin Luther King jr. and a detour to one of the Civil Rights movement’s most important landmarks in his article ‘A Memphis Lesson’.

Cerith Mathias is on the Southern literary trail in Georgia and Alabama, where one local publishing house has in recent years been accused of censorship for publishing a version of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn minus the ‘n’ word. In the second of her contributions to this special edition, Deep South Magazine’s Erin Z. Bass provides a guide to tracing the footsteps of favourite authors all over the South with a new app created by the magazine.

Finally, Micah Conkling a graduate student and writing instructor in the English department at West Virginia University reviews Lisa Howoth’s Flying Shoes a tale of love and loss that is currently topping Summer reading best-seller lists.

Away from the Deep South, Wales Arts Review continues its search for the Greatest Welsh Novel with Gary Raymond’s championing of Bruce Chatwin’s On the Black Hill. And in our collaboration with the AWWE we publish Daniel Hughes’ Gregynog Paper, ‘Lynette Roberts and the Chronology of Welsh Modernism’. And staying at Gregynog for a moment, and continuing our coverage of First World War commemorative events, Steph Power was on hand at this year’s festival to review the visit of the Flemish Radio Choir.

In theatre, Elin Williams was at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff to see August 012′s production of Koltes’ Roberto Zucco, a difficult and controversial play about the life of the real life serial killer. And Jemma Beggs saw a diverse presentation of modern dance at Cardiff’s Wales Dance Platform 2014.

In books, Cath Barton reviews the new novel from Alan Bilton from Cillian Press, The Known & Unknown Sea. Adam Somerset looks back at Nick Davies scintillating book about the modern British press, Flat Earth News, and finds in it a pleasingly positive cameo for Cardiff University’s School of Journalism. And Gary Raymond finds a deeply moving work of art in Deryn Rees-Jones’ And You, Helen, a collaborative response to Edward Thomas’ poem of the same name, and perhaps one of the most important books to come out in the slew of World War I commemorations.

And finally, Wales Arts Review is asking for submissions to our call for new board members. Several places have recently become available and The Review would like to open up the application process in the interest of building the strongest board available. If you would be interested in finding out more about the process and the requirements, please follow this link.

Banner illustration by Dean Lewis

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