Mary Thomas and Randall Curb: Authors of the Deep South

My take on Deep South is beginning to sit on opposite ends of the extreme- at times I enjoy Theroux’s interactions with the older individuals of the decaying communities, while I simultaneously feel the need to correct his utterly biased representation of the South and its trying people.

I found Theroux’s time with Mary T. and Randall quite fascinating. I honestly could have read an entire travel log on merely their meeting and subsequent day-to-day conversations on past authors and history’s influence. More than anything, it was nice to finally have Theroux admire someone other than himself throughout his privileged journey. Up until his meeting with Randall, and now Mary T., Theroux has dominated the discussion. He chooses with whom to speak, what to ask, which topics to debate, and so forth. As mentioned numerous times, many decide they don’t feel comfortable with meeting him. He had to return to South Carolina for a second trip to be invited into one of the small homes of Flowers Lane inhabited by nine individuals. I’m sure the family felt judged. I wouldn’t want a stranger walking around my home simply so he could complete his book on how poor my fellow Southerners and I were in comparison to his daily inner-circle of Cape Cod. Now, Theroux was answering to Mary T. He admired her work and she, whether from her old age or mere self-confidence, didn’t seem the least taken aback by his well-to-do presence. It was another day with another writer. She spoke eloquently and truthfully, eager to tell her story. Her ability to recount first-hand the past century’s injustices serves as a much needed lesson for Theroux: “The very fact that there is such a person as a Southern writer (and not a Northern writer) seemed odd to me until I spent some time in the South (Theroux 282). He’s gone about his trip holding an attitude which essentially mimics Westerners as they study the Orient- we’re a developed and prosperous society, while those of the Orient must be viewed in merely an empathetic manner.  Theroux assumes the citizens of the South hold a grudge- they paradoxically cannot move past the Civil Rights era, yet earn for the attention of politicians and the equality and respect of their fellow Americans. Mary T., whether he realizes it or not, shames Theroux’s misconceptions. He cannot place her in the same category on which he has continued to organize those he’s previously met throughout the black community- Mary T. shatters Theroux’s stereotypical definition of “the other.” Civil Rights similarities are alive and true, with remnants of the past-life lingering around the South- it’s not a grudge, and rather it continues to remain a way of life for so many neglected Americans of the Deep South.

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2 thoughts on “Mary Thomas and Randall Curb: Authors of the Deep South

  1. Kara I also really enjoyed that passage with him and Mary T. It is always interesting when we are forced to face uncomfortable realizations about ourselves that we often do not see. And I also totally agree that because he has a high level of education he kind of wishes the world could see things through his point of view and I think to be fair we all feel that way sometimes. That we wished others could see why we love a certain film, or book, or piece art (all the fore-mentioned are art in my opinion).

  2. I also enjoyed Theroux’s report on meetings with the writers. Your assessment of his encounter with Mary T could use more support from the text. Where do you see her “shaming” Theroux’s misconceptions?

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