Home
In this issue
December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 21, 2014 / 23 Tammuz, 5774

The fragmentary South

By Paul Greenberg




JewishWorldReview.com | Years ago, a decade ago, an old friend emailed me a classic Southern news story. It went down straight. Neat. Like a shot of Early Times. The story came out of the Mobile Press-Register in Alabama back when it was still a daily.

That newspaper has since been reduced to a fragment of its old self, and now puts out a print edition only three days a week. The oldest paper in that state, the Press Register or one of its predecessors had been publishing daily since the early 1800s. The same thing happened, briefly, to Louisiana's fabled Times-Picayune in New Orleans. But here was an article worthy of the old days. Or as my friend summed it up, "Now this is a news story."

It was. The headline was simple, straight-faced, and it made you want to read on: Preacher Says He Was Beaten by Mourners.

Below the hed was a story by Staff Reporter Gary McElroy, a man who had enough sense to know that, when you've got a great story, you don't embellish it. That would be to ruin it. Like putting whipped cream on Southern-fried chicken. Mr. McElroy just knew a good story when he heard it -- and how to write it up. His article began: "A ... street preacher who screamed at a funeral that the deceased was burning in hell said Tuesday he was beaten by mourners for telling the truth."

The rest of the story had just about every element of the Gothic South:

Violence, of course.

Disappointed heirs involved in a dispute over, of course, land.

And, perhaps most Southern of all, theology -- and not your nice, lukewarm, diluted mainstream variety, either. But your old-fashioned, holy-roller, speakin'-in-tongues, damnation-and-hellfire brand of religion, topped off by a fistfight. (What, no snake-handlin'?)

I had to wonder: Was this a news item or a short story by Flannery O'Connor? I laughed. I cried. I sighed. And then I was moved to repent my wasted life. I may have spent it in the geographical South but, wrapped up in the cocoon of what Walker Percy called everydayness, could I still see it? Gary McElroy could -- if this story of his was any example.

The name of the preacher in the news story was Orlando Bethel. Of course. That's almost as good as Hazel Motes, the central character in Flannery O'Connor's "Wise Blood." Old Hazel, big as life and twice as scary, commits his provocation right off -- in the very first chapter. That's when he tells/dares the lady sitting across from him on the train -- a Mrs. Wally Bee Hitchcock -- "I reckon you think you been redeemed." You know what comes next. Or you would if there was still a South somewhere, the old-time South full of old-time religion, which means full of old-time sin. Even today some Southerners may still be able to see, denounce and be obsessed by it.

Brother Bethel in Mobile admitted he was just supposed to sing at the funeral of his relative -- an uncle of his wife's who he claimed had cheated her out of her inheritance. But then "the Holy Ghost told me to really speak the truth -- I said this man was no longer with us because he is in Hell, that they needed to repent of their sins, there was a lesbian scheduled to sing, and there were fornicators...." And who knows what other outrages the Rev. Orlando Bethel had spotted at the funeral -- or imagined.

It wasn't clear which of Brother Bethel's various observations about the deceased, or about the congregants, inspired several of the brethren to take him to the back of the church later and put the hiatus on his fiery sermon. Forcibly. Nor can I vouch for how seriously he was pummeled in the process. Reports differed. But I do know that you don't read many news stories like this one anymore. Why is that? Is it part of the rampant Americanization of the South? Have we all grown as respectable as New Englanders? Or just forgotten how to tell a good story in these latitudes, once the epicenter of the American narrative tradition?

I doubt it. I bet the South is still out there, and that it holds just as many stories as it ever did. My theory is that we in the press -- excuse me, it's now The Media -- can no longer see those stories, hear them, feel them, know them. We've been to college. We have degrees in journalism. We know what an inverted pyramid is when it comes to writing a lede for a story. We know every which way to say something, it's just that we may no longer have anything to say.

In short, we've come down with a chronic case of the respectables. We've been so busy trying to be Tom Friedman, God help us, that we've forgotten how to see and feel and therefore write like Flannery O'Connor. We've had our native vision educated clean out of us, and I fear we won't be saved without being born again.



Miss Mary Flannery O'Connor was accused of writing grotesque stories, an accusation she gloried in, for she knew that depicting the grotesque, as in a Diane Arbus photograph, may say the most about the human condition, that it rips off our masks and reveals our fallen state. And that we can be saved only by grace -- His and maybe our own to one another. That's why she wrote about Hazel Motes of the not so fictive Church of Christ Without Christ.

"Whenever I'm asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks," she famously observed, "I say it is because we are still able to recognize one."

Can we anymore? It's been more than twice 20 years now since Flannery O'Connor told a college audience in Georgia, "I hate to think that in 20 years Southern writers too may be writing about men in gray-flannel suits and may have lost their ability to see that these gentlemen are even greater freaks than what we are writing about now."

Sure enough, now we write about the latest fraudsters in big business, or the current crop of politicos, their ups and downs and sideways, as if that were what really counted in this world and maybe the next -- the ultimate reality. As if all these people in button-down collars and pin-striped suits, and their now just as respectable female counterparts, weren't the real freaks. For not recognizing themselves as such.

Gary McElroy is retired now, but I'm happy to report that once upon a time somebody in Mobile, Alabama, still knew a good story when he heard one, and just how to tell it. Straight. Neat. In one swig that clears out the soul.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Paul Greenberg Archives

© 2014 TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles

Quantcast