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The South

  • The Southerners are the only cooks in the United States. The real difference between the South and the North is that one enjoys itself getting dyspepsia and the other does not.

  • ... to a Southerner it is faux pas, not sins, that matter in this world.

  • ...because the theater lost a Barrymore every time a Southerner decided not to go on the stage, just about anything that comes out of a Southern mouth is bound to be a ringing line.

  • Southerners have a genius for psychological alchemy. ... If something intolerable simply cannot be changed, driven away, or shot, they will not only tolerate it but take pride in it as well.

  • In the South, Sunday morning sex is accompanied by church bells.

  • To grow up female in the South is to inherit a set of directives that warp one for life, if they do not actually induce psychosis.

  • This curious sense of separateness is one of the most stubbornly preserved Southern attitudes. The South, its historians say, stands apart from other American regions because of its peculiar history. History has been cruel to Southerners, has persistently dealt them deuces.

  • The South may be the last place where dying is still sometimes a community project.

  • If the production of self-serving folklore qualified as an industry, the South would have been an industrial power since colonial times.

  • Anybody who grows up in the South may have to reckon, some time or another, with being born again.

  • The poor South. Already guilty of slavery, it became guilty of cigarettes.

  • ... Yankees, once they hear a drawl, no longer take seriously anything the person says.

  • Southerners can never resist a losing cause.

  • Haven't you lived in the South long enough to know that nothing is ever anybody's fault?

  • She had once been a Southern belle and she had never got over it. But that disease is a curiously inverted one. It sickens almost to death any number of persons about her, but it remains robust and incurable in the woman who possesses it.

  • It is charming the way everyone in the South says, 'Come back.' This is the regulation farewell at gas stations, soda fountains, general stores, tourist camps. 'Come back,' they call, 'come back.' Do they feel marooned in one place, lost, needing to believe someone will return to share their exile on the similar main streets, in the varied but always new-looking land?

    • Martha Gellhorn,
    • "Journey Through a Peaceful Land," in The New Republic ()
  • Southerners have been known to stay over the Fourth and not get home before Thanksgiving. Some oldtimers take in overnight guests and keep them through three generations.

  • I come from down south, where vegetation does not know its place. Honeysuckle can work through cracks in your walls and strangle you while you sleep. Kudzu can completely shroud a house and a car parked in the yard in one growing season. Wisteria can lift a building off its foundation, and certain terrifying mints spread so rapidly that just the thought of them on a summer night can make your hair stand on end.

  • If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unncessary insult.

  • An Easterner solicits the name of your school. A Northerner wants to know what business you're in. The first question most of us Southerners ask you, however, is, 'Who was your grandmother, dear?'

  • ... things are breaking and thawing: we must hold on to that. A frozen river is a quiet thing; in thaw it is a roaring monster. We are in thaw in the South: there is bound to be much noise, much individual cruelty, much collective madness. But underneath, change is taking place — not only in streets and places but in human hearts.

    • Lillian Smith,
    • 1962, in Margaret Rose Gladney, ed., How Am I to Be Heard? Letters of Lillian Smith ()
  • ... for most Southerners, storytelling is as natural as breathing.

  • Southerners are the more lonely and spiritually estranged, I think, because we have lived so long in an artificial social system that we insisted was natural and right and just — when all along we knew it wasn't.

  • Now hopping-john was F. Jasmine's very favorite food. She had always warned them to wave a plate of rice and peas before her nose when she was in her coffin, to make certain there was no mistake; for if a breath of life was left in her, she would sit up and eat, but if she smelled the hopping-john, and did not stir, then they could just nail down the coffin and be certain she was truly dead.

  • I've always noticed that Old Families, like plumbers and barbers and possibly drummers and detectives, seem to have some kind of reciprocity arrangement in the South. Members of the freemasonry could move anywhere ... and still operate cozily in the local Old Family top drawer.

  • The South is often noted for its eccentric characters, both real and fictional, and I was there long enough to know that 'normal' either becomes a divine ambition or a malediction.

  • ... I'm so Southern I'm related to myself.

  • True Southern cooking has its foundations in the country kitchen. It is characterized by the gracious willingness to share a meal with strangers as well as loved ones, which is something you will find everywhere people have known hard times.

  • ... the three most important things to a Southern girl are God, family and hair, almost never in that order.

  • But the South is still the South, so don't think the old ways have gone away completely. Scarlett still clings to tradition, worships her daddy and likes to dress up and flirt. Only now she's in group therapy to help her understand why.

  • ... she knew that in Georgia no lady was supposed to know she was a virgin until she had ceased to be one ...

  • Being Southerners, it was a source of shame to some members of the family that we had no recorded ancestors on either side of the Battle of Hastings.

  • In the North man may not be able to live by bread alone; but in the South, and particularly in Charleston, he comes mighty near to it, provided the bread is hot.

  • I'm the type of Southern Baptist that keeps a picture of Elvis's Last Supper in our living room. Whenever I mention that in my nightclub act, I usually get at least one irate Baptist who says, 'You can make fun of Jesus, but leave the King out of it.'

  • Southerners have a gene, as yet undetected in the DNA spirals, that causes them to believe that place is fate. Where you are is who you are. The further inside you the place moves, the more your identity is intertwined with it. Never casual, the choice of place is the choice of something you crave.

  • Well, how'd we get to talking about our ancestors? People think we don't talk about anything else in Charleston.

  • In the provincial South ... family ties rival the rampant kudzu for entanglement and tenacity.

  • Some Southerners must spend many years in exile before their accent reaches its full potential. Lutie has lived in New York two decades, and her accent is so thick we wonder if she has a Berlitz coach.

    • Charlotte Hays,
    • in Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral ()
  • We're people with a strong sense of community, and being dead is no impediment to belonging to it. We won't forget you just because you've up and died. We may even like you better and visit you more often.

    • Gayden Metcalfe,
    • in Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays, Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral ()
  • The South does not move, does not move, does not move, and then it heaves into violence.