A writer-editor-teacher’s quote of the week #63

“In 1941, the southern journalist WJ Cash wrote an important book that continues to color people’s opinions about white southerners. Interestingly, it is the brilliance of Cash’s The Mind of the South that led to the preconceptions and misperceptions that have become part of the mythology of southern small-mindedness and intolerance. Cash was an intellectual from a small southern mill town, much like my own. He was reclusive, depressive, lacked self-esteem, and preferred more heady endeavors, such as reading and studying, to the ordinary small town activities of his time. All of this made him an outcast in his community, and he developed a resentment toward his fellows that cast a cloud of pessimism over his ideas. ‘The pursuit of knowledge, the writing of books, the painting of pictures, the life of the mind,‘ he wrote of his southern peers’ attitudes, ‘seemed an anemic and despicable business, fit only for eunuchs.‘ The resentment – some might say paranoia – distorts Cash’s otherwise keen cultural observations, and in the years since has made an indelible imprint on outside perceptions of the South. Almost everything written about the region cites Cash’s work.”

– from the preface to Mark Kemp’s Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South

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