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The South takes pride in many things - apple pie, southern hospitality, home cooking, rival football games, classic Southern literature and more. Two authors, William Faulkner and Borden Deal, made this part of the country come alive with their words and put Union County on the map for all to experience page by page.
Faulkner was born in New Albany and although Deal is a Pontotoc native, he lived in and wrote about Union County as well.
For these two reasons, the Southern Literary Trail recently welcomed its new destination, the Union County Heritage Museum of New Albany, birthplace of William Faulkner and the hometown of Borden Deal.
Southern Literary Trail Director William Gantt said, “New Albany was selected by enthusiastic and unanimous vote of the tri-state board of the Southern Literary Trail. The board membership consists of pre-eminent Southern Literature scholars and educators from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. In Mississippi, our academic advisers are Ann Abadie of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at Ole Miss and Steve Pieschel, Professor Emeritus of Literature at MUW. A Trail town must have inspired a classic Southern fiction writer such as William Faulkner or Borden Deal to become a member of our project.”
He added, “ New Albany well qualifies, since it inspired Faulkner’s ‘The Reivers,’ among other works. Its influence on Borden Deal’s work is important. Also, our board and the other Trail members were very impressed by the remarkable work of the Union County Heritage Museum and by the community support for the Faulkner Literary Garden.”
Jill Smith, director of the Union County Heritage Museum, said, “Being on this trail links us to other literary destinations and links New Albany to the rest of the world. I see New Albany being on the southern literary trail as a catalyst for us in New Albany to realize the importance and interest there is in the world of books and literature. Borden Deal’s day will come again.”
This trail celebrates writers of classic Southern literature in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.
In addition to New Albany being on the trail, the Byron Herbert Reece Farm in Blairsville, Ga. also made the list.
“There’s another level of the world that appreciates literary qualities as a culture and being on this trail is a good way to tap into that,” said Smith. “The more literary events that we have that we can develop and sustain, the better off we will be.”
Borden Deal and New Albany are both listed on the Mississippi page on the Southern Literary Trail’s web site. William Faulkner is listed for both New Albany and Oxford in Mississippi.
“Deal clearly used his Mississippi childhood and New Albany in his writings. Our scholars also expressed strong feelings about the quality of his work during our selection process,” said Gantt. “We view our project as a collaboration among the southeastern states. Deal moved to Alabama, and he is highly regarded in our state too. Deal was named a ‘Sesquicentennial Scholar,’ a rare honor, by the University of Alabama when it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1981.”
Even though New Albany is a small city, there are four book clubs in the town. These clubs are New Century Club, The Book Club, Kappa Kappa Iota, and Junta Club.
Gantt said, “Both towns (New Albany and Oxford) influenced Faulkner’s fiction, so two towns on the Trail for Faulkner are well merited. There are only a handful of places on our Trail that can claim two great writers, so New Albany is a remarkable new member of the Southern Literary Trail.”
“There is more of a possibility to expand more and get the exposure that New Albany needs. If we want to do more, we now have a portal to reach the world. Because of William Faulkner being born here and writing about Union County and because of Borden Deal’s presence in Union County, we are at ground zero for literature right here in Union County,” said Smith.
Information about the Southern Literary Trail is published on a constant basis in magazines, newspapers, and other publications.
In addition, an entry about the Southern Literary Trail is forthcoming in the Encyclopedia of Alabama, which is sponsored by the Alabama Humanities Foundation.
Gantt said, “In September, the announcement about New Albany and our Georgia new member, the Byron Herbert Reece Farm in Blairsville, will be published in “The Oxford American” magazine. Attention always increases as we move toward our Trailfest celebrations every second spring. “Trailfest” is the only tri-state literary festival in the nation, and we hope New Albany will be a part of our next celebration in spring 2013.”
There is a discussion about the future plan of having a marker dedication in towns selected to be on the Southern Literary Trail. In addition, there will be a dedication ceremony in New Albany to welcome the city on the trail.
For more information about the Southern Literary Trail, visit www.southernliterarytrail.org.