FW: March 31, 2002 column [Remembered Gate: Memoirs by Alabama Wr iters]
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Subject: March 31, 2002 column
The Capitol Book & News Montgomery Advertiser Column March 31, 2002
Andrew Hudgins, the poet and essayist, is probably the second most successful writer ever to graduate from Montgomery's Sidney Lanier High School, itself named for a pretty fair wordsmith. The only Lanier writer we can think of who might have had more success was Lonnie Coleman, who graduated in the late 1930's, and published several novels including the "Beulah Land" trilogy, which Hollywood made into a movie. He also wrote three plays, all of which were produced on Broadway, the most successful of which ran for exactly one week.
Andrew Hudgins graduated from Lanier in 1969. We can be sure of that, because Thomas was a classmate of his there. They were not close friends, but they did have at least one class together, Margaret Gorrie's analysis class, in which they studied that branch of mathematics concerned mainly with functions and limits. Do you reckon they still teach that in public school here?
But nobody asked us to write about math, or high school. They asked us to write about books, and wouldn't you know it - there's a new book out with a piece in it written by Andrew Hudgins, included in which he writes about that very math class! And you want to know something funny? The piece is said to be a "memoir," which means it's supposed to be the truth, or at least the truth as Andrew Hudgins remembers it, but in his recollection of Miss Gorrie's class Andrew gets everything WRONG, and not just wrong, but wrong in a way that - can you believe it? - perfectly illustrates the whole point of his essay, which is that nearly everybody he knew in Montgomery in the late 1960's was not just culturally backward, but somehow vaguely evil, too
Here's what he says about Miss Gorrie, or "Miz" Gorrie as he refers to her, in accusing her of "twitting those twelve black-robed busybodies on the Supreme Court." He says, "In my senior analysis class, Miz Gorrie conducted daily Scripture readings. She passed the Bible around the room and when it got to you, you could read a passage out loud, or pass it on." An outrageous act by a religious fanatic? Or a heroic act of defiance by a true believer? Neither, because it never happened. Miss Gorrie had an hour's worth of analysis to teach every day, and an hour's worth of analysis, and no Bible reading, is what we got.
Andrew then goes on to compound the error by recalling how he, when it was his turn to read the Bible every day, would read the verses of the passages backward, and be amused that nobody noticed. A nice little detail, actually. Would that it were true.
But does it matter that it's not literally true? The piece, entitled "Alabama Breakdown," is highly entertaining, and illustrates perfectly well, and almost exactly as Thomas remembers them, too, the social, political, racial, and sexual tensions at Lanier in the late 1960's.
Andrew's essay is one of nineteen by Alabama writers in the new collection "The Remembered Gate: Memoirs by Alabama Writers," recently published by The University of Alabama Press ($29.95 hardcover, edited by Jay Lamar and Jeanie Thompson, the two hardest working women on the Alabama literary scene). And you know what? We bet that not a single one of them is literally "true," if by "true" you mean absolute objective reality. By that standard the telephone book might be the only "truth" you'll find in print. And by that standard these essays are better than "true." They're funny, poignant, infuriating, highly entertaining and, mostly, very illuminating little glimpses into the Alabama experiences that nineteen Alabama writers remember, or think they remember, helped make them into writers.
Oh, and the other 18 writers? Only Mary Ward Brown, William Cobb, Fannie Flagg, Patricia Foster, Frye Gaillard, Charles Gaines, Andrew Glaze, Wayne Greenhaw, James Haskins, Robert Inman, Rodney Jones, Nanci Kincaid, C. Eric Lincoln, Albert Murray, Sena Jeter Naslund, Helen Norris, Judith Hillman Paterson, and Phyllis Perry.
A treat: we'll have the editors of this book, and several of the writers (not Andrew Hudgins) at our store Saturday, April 6, from 1 PM - 3 PM. We're expecting Helen Norris, Mary Ward Brown, William Cobb, Wayne Greenhaw and Phyllis Perry._______________________________
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