When I’m looking for a summer read, I frequently browse through Southern Gothic novels. The steamy locales juxtaposed with chilling tales rife with repression, make an appealing combination for hot summer nights.
The New York Public Library shared a list of “southern gothic” novels. Since I lived in Texas, I was interested in seeing what they included. Most people consider Texas to be part of the west, but Texas is so big that the eastern part of the state has strong southern influences. I’ve read several of the listed books; many by Anne Rice, and Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil, of course.
Here is their list:
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
A Visitation of Spirits by Randall Kenan
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Blackwood Farm by Anne Rice
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
“Barn Burning” by William Faulkner
Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash
Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia
The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O’Connor
Beloved by Toni Morrison
NPL defines a Southern Gothic novel:
“Dark in tone and set in an atmosphere of decay and decline, Southern Gothic lit is colored by that intense, damp, uniquely Southern heat pressing down on its characters and stories.”
There are some novels I would like to add, in fact, some of them are rather famous and I’m surprised were left off the list.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
With its recent resurgence in popularity, I’m surprised they didn’t include this one. Maybe they felt since they mentioned Harper Lee in the introduction they could leave it out, but I have to include it on my list.
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
Set in the Ozark Mountains, this relentlessly bleak novel showcases a young girl struggling under the weight of family responsibilities.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
This Pulitzer Prize winning novel languished, unpublished until after the suicide of the author. Fans of the book liken its complexity to Dickens’ novels, and its protagonist to the questing Don Quixote.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg
Many of Flagg’s novels are set in the steamy south, are populated with unforgettable characters, and often have a dark undertone. My favorite is A Redbird Christmas, but most readers are probably more aware of the Academy Award nominated film based on Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.
Deliverance by James Dickey
This book was instrumental in launching the creepy-redneck-don’t-go-into-the-woods genre, which is still a staple in film and horror stories. It may seem a bit dated, but it is still a compelling read.
Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell
It is hard to imagine a more southern tale than one which features sharecroppers toiling in Georgia during the depression. Hunger, sexual longings, and fear drive the protagonists to the bottom of the social hierarchy.
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Since it’s classified as SF, some may leave this off the list, but I think the slave narrative warrants its inclusion as a Southern Gothic.
Do you have a favorite Southern Gothic novel?