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Southern Literature Mourns Louis Rubin

Algonquin Books


William Faulkner may be one of the most well-known writers of the 20th century. But you might not associate his name with southern literature if not forLouis Rubin

Rubin helped develop the genre of southern literature in its own right. A well-respected writer, an adored teacher and the founder of the Southern Literary Journal and the Society for the Study of Southern Literature, Rubin is regarded as one of the icons of southern writing.

Jill McCorkle, one of his students at UNC and a celebrated southern author, said his writing advice was essential.

"Louis was very good at asking those questions just right down to word choice. Maybe showing where you missed an opportunity," she said on The State of Things.

Lee Smith, one of his students when he taught at Hollins College and an acclaimed writer, agreed, and said his guidance was short but necessary. 

"I was always running my manuscripts past Louis, because invariably he wouldn't say much, but what he said is the one thing you had to listen to," she said.

Shannon Ravenel,, co-founder of Algonquin with Rubin, explained how he told her she should go into publishing, rather than focus on being a writer. She said she wasn't disappointed by his suggestion.

"I didn't think I was a great writer either," Ravenel said. "It was not hurtful at all. I was thrilled that he thought I could be an editor."

Southern writer Clyde Edgerton got his break from Rubin via his publishing company Algonquin Books. But he knew a different side to Rubin. Rubin, when he wasn't writing, editing or helping his students, had many other interests, including fishing. He and Edgerton regularly went on trips together.

"We went fishing many times. He had a really narrow boat. And he couldn't swim. And he had these little wings that he could inflate under his arms," Edgerton said.

Rubin is also known for his contribution to the idea of southern literature. He is the scholar, more than almost anyone else, who brought legitimacy to the idea of southern writing as its own form of literature.

"He saw what the connections were and how they made that bulk of literature important in the overall canon," Ravenel said.

Edgerton added that Rubin's writing ability helped him sell the idea of Southern literature.

"He could write about southern writing in a way that was so clear and persuasive," Edgerton said. 

The audio for today's show will be posted by 3 p.m.

Alex Granados joined The State of Things in July 2010. He got his start in radio as an intern for the show in 2005 and loved it so much that after trying his hand as a government reporter, reader liaison, features, copy and editorial page editor at a small newspaper in Manassas, Virginia, he returned to WUNC. Born in Baltimore but raised in Morgantown, West Virginia, Alex moved to Raleigh in time to do third grade twice and adjust to public school after having spent years in the sheltered confines of a Christian elementary education. Alex received a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has a minor in philosophy, which basically means that he used to think he was really smart but realized he wasn’t in time to switch majors. Fishing, reading science fiction, watching crazy movies, writing bad short stories, and shooting pool are some of his favorite things to do. Alex still doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, but he is holding out for astronaut.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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