Sunday, February 28, 2010
2010 Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration
Attending a southern celebration in one of Mississippi's oldest towns, Natchez, was a delight last week. Listening to writers on southern humor emphasized our connection with the rest of the world. A tribute to Horton Foote by Scott Dixon McDowell through a documentary that took 20 years to complete was one of the outstanding aspects of the week. McDowell has a film that will be viewed by college and post college students of literature and writing for eons to come. Horton Foote died last year at age 94 and left us two of many endearing movies: "Trip to Bountiful" and "Tender Mercies". One of his many movie adaptations "To Kill a Mockingbird," revealed his subtle humor. (Sis and I were pleased to have heard Mr. Foote seveal years ago when he was celebrated at a Southern Writers' Conference in Alabama.) Gerald McRaney, actor originally from Mississippi, gave us his views on Mr. Foote in his sharing of "Horton Foote, the Man That I Knew". McRaney is a member of the advisory board that produces this literary festival yearly.
Another bright light that shone was Clifton Taulbert, author of Once When I Was Colored,Last Train North, and Eight Habits of the Heart. He grew up in Mississippi and now lives in Tulsa, OK where he runs the Building Community Institute, which he founded. He spoke of the humor that George Washington Carver possessed. Always he is a popular speaker.
One speaker delighted us with referrals to "Double Names, Conniption Fits and 'Kiss My Foot':Laughing at Ourselves with Eudora Welty and Other Southerners" An actress of television, movies, and theatre, Jane Welch, entertained us with behind the scenes struggle of snatching a role in TV, theatre, or movies with her "Life in the Theatre: The Agony and the Ectasy".
Others reminded us of how gentlemanly manners pervaded the Old South and how Pogo, Snufy, Lil Abner and other comic strips used southern humor. Our own cartoonist from Jackson's Clarion-Ledger, Marshall Ramsey, delighted us with a series of his political cartoons and a running commentary of how he found humor in serious subjects.
Collectively, these speakers, southerners who live and work in the east and south, reminded us of the traits of behavior, speech patterns, and use of flowery expressions that are slowly disappearing as we adapt to modern life, thereby losing our identity as southerners. Only our accent remains.