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Delving Into the South's Rich Storytelling Tradition

Interview Lee Smith

In 30 years of writing, Lee Smith has tackled everything from the modernization of Appalachia to the origins of jazz. Her latest work is a book of short stories called "News of the Spirit." She shared her views on the new boom in Southern literature.

Why has the South produced so many good writers?

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It has always been the region of the country most full of conflict, and in my mind conflict is what produces fiction.

Is it difficult to follow so many great Southern writers?

No, because the South is changing all the time. Today's writers are coming out of a different South. What we have now is just as interesting, the way the population is changing and shifting. But as long as we still have that oral tradition, we'll have people telling their stories.

How is today's South different?

We're now the region of the country facing the greatest change. For so long we were static, and now we're just booming. The old way versus the new way - it just breeds writers. There's a lot to say.

One thing I am convinced has not changed is the sense of story that's here. The narrative style within the South remains distinctly different than in the rest of the country. Southerners simply talk more. Things are told in anecdotes. Every little thing that happens to you is a story.

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