For the inimitable Lee Smith, place is paramount. For forty-five years, her fiction has lived and breathed with the rhythms and people of the Appalachian South. But never before has she written her own story.
Set deep in the mountains of Virginia, the Grundy of Lee Smith’s youth was a place of coal miners, tent revivals, mountain music, drive-in theaters, and her daddy’s dimestore. It was in that dimestore–listening to customers and inventing adventures for the store’s dolls–that she became a storyteller. Even when she was sent off to college to earn some “culture,” she understood that perhaps the richest culture she might ever know was the one she was driving away from–and it’s a place that she never left behind.
Dimestore’s fifteen essays are crushingly honest, wise and perceptive, and superbly entertaining. Smith has created both a moving personal portrait and a testament to embracing one’s heritage. It’s also an inspiring story of the birth of a writer and a poignant look at a way of life that has all but vanished.
Why I’m Waiting. Lee Smith ranks as a favorite Southern writer along with Pat Conroy. If she publishes a book, I automatically reach for it. If I can get a signed first edition, even better. Sadly, I have never seen her speak so I am hoping she goes on tour to promote this book. Although Louisville, Kentucky is questionably Southern, it is close enough to catch Smith at some surrounding areas.
Guests on Earth, On Agate Hill and Oral History are some of my favorites. If you haven’t read any of Smith’s books, I encourage you to check her out. If you have, what did you think? What’s your favorite?