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Literary Georgia


January 03, 2018

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John Steinbeck in his book Travels with Charley said, “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” It’s the contrast between the two seasons which makes them both special. I love to be outside hiking or kayaking, but when winter comes and the days get shorter there’s nothing I love more than curling up in my chair with a book. With that in mind I thought I’d suggest something for my fellow bibliophiles.

Georgia is famous for many things: peaches and peanuts, Coke, the church and resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Gladys Knight and her iconic “Midnight Train to Georgia,” President Jimmy Carter, Ray Charles’s “Georgia On My Mind” and its authors. Georgia has a long history with the written word. In 1762 James Johnston established the first newspaper and print shop in the young colony. The first edition of the Georgia Gazette which rolled out from Johnston’s shop on Broughton Street also included an advertisement for books published in-house.

Savannah’s most famous author, one whose stories are required reading for every high schooler in the state and every American Short Story class in the nation, is Flannery O’Connor. The home is an unassuming gray building situated tightly between two other residences and located diagonally across a small square from Savannah’s beautiful cathedral. A bronzed historical marker is the only thing which outwardly differentiates the building from any of the others in the row, but stepping inside reveals a home meticulously restored to its Depression Era glory, just as it would have been when the young Flannery lived there. The home is open every day except Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. for 30-minute guided tours. The entry fee is $6. The Childhood Home Foundation also hosts public readings and events, and a schedule can be found on their website.

Savannah shares O’Connor with the city of Milledgeville where she and her family moved in 1940. She attended what is now Georgia College and, as her Lupus worsened she returned to Andalusia, the family farm where she lived for the last 13 years of her life and wrote some of her most famous works. The O’Connor family farm is now owned and operated by the college as a museum, though it is temporarily closed for ongoing restoration. O’Connor is buried in Milledgeville in Memory Hill Cemetery.

 Another famous Georgian and O’Connor’s contemporary was Columbus native Carson McCullers. She is one of the hallmarks of the Southern Gothic tradition in literature and, though she spent the majority of her life outside of the south, her work reflects her roots. Her childhood home is now owned by Columbus State University and houses a museum as well as the Carson McCullers Center for Writers & Musicians. Tours are offered by appointment.

Perhaps Georgia’s most famous literary work, known for its petulant heroine and her roguish lover is Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. The Civil War era novel which examined the fall of the idealized Antebellum South has remained controversial over the years but the book’s popularity has not waned. The Margaret Mitchell House, the home in which she wrote her famous novel, is now a museum operated by the Atlanta History Center. Exhibits explore not just Mitchell’s life as an author and journalist, but Gone with the Wind’s iconic film adaptation starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. Guided tours run daily. Adult admission is $13.

Last but not least, any tour of literary Georgia must include the little town of Eatonton, Georgia. Eatonton is the location of the Georgia Writer’s Museum and the birthplace of novelist and poet Alice Walker. The museum honors the 46 authors inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame and houses permanent exhibits dedicated to the authors it touts as locals: Flannery O’Connor, Joel Chandler Harris and Alice Walker. The city of Eatonton also offers an Alice Walker Driving Tour which takes visitors to important locations in her life including the church she grew up in, the cemetery where her parents are buried, and her childhood home. More information on the tour can be found at the Visitor’s Center. Alice Walker is still publishing today with two works released in 2013, but her most famous work remains The Color Purple.


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