tidbits, fragments, and ephemera 1

tidbits, fragments, and ephemera is a usually weekly but not always, sometimes substantial but not making any promises glimpse at some information and news related to Generation X in the Deep South.


Religion Landscape Study, South Carolina

This Pew Research Center study shows that 78% of adult GenXers in South Carolina are Christians, with the bulk majority (19%) as “unaffiliated.” Every other religion added together makes up the remaining 3%. (No year was clearly available for the study.)

Party Affiliation among Generation X by state

This info from 2014 shows that, among GenXers in Southern states, there was a mix of major-Republican and majority-Democrat states. Apparently, at this time Mississippi was no longer considered a state by the Pew Research Center.

University of Georgia launches a newsletter for Generation X alumni.

excerpted: “From a design standpoint, The Fast Times is reminiscent of the popular zines of the ‘80s, where people made magazines that were small in size and easily distributable. Their creators often gave them away for free to increase the spread of their opinions on music, film and other cultural followings.”

Alabama journalist Tim Lockette publishes two novels.

excerpted: “Lockette’s time as a newspaperman lends authenticity to Tell it True. But the 49-year-old said both books are colored by his personal experiences as a member of Generation X – the demographic group born roughly between 1965 and 1980 who were often criticized in popular culture as “slackers” but later gained a reputation for entrepreneurship while steering clear of political activism.”

Demographic breakdown of the Mississippi legislature

These graphs were compiled and are offered by the Center for Youth Political Participation at New Jersey’s Rutgers University. Among the graphs and charts is the category of generation.

“Generation X can flip the script in their communities,” by Kristi Gustavson, CEO of the Community Foundation of North Louisiana

excerpted: “One thing for certain about Gen X, perhaps as with any other generation, is that we refused to adhere to the constraints put upon us by the generation before us.  We sought to very uniquely define ourselves.  Of course, bucking the system is nothing new and certainly not invented by Gen Xers.  Every generation does this to some degree.  What makes each generation unique is not that we choose not to conform it is how we choose not to conform.”

Blues Old Stand, live

The band, which took its name from a tiny community in Macon County, was a staple of the Montgomery, Alabama music scene in the 1980s and 1990s. The band streamed a live show on Facebook in April 2021.


level:deepsouth is an online anthology about growing up Generation X in the Deep South during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The anthology is open to submissions of creative nonfiction (essays, memoirs, and reviews) and images (photos and flyers), as well as to contributions for the lists.

Another Deep Southern Gen X sampler, from “the lists”

The section in level:deepsouth called “the lists” is for collecting and sharing articles, sound files, videos, and images from Generation X’s early years in the Deep South and from today. Below is a sampler.

Bear: The Hard Life and Good Times of Alabama’s Coach Bryant by Paul “Bear” Bryant  with John Underwood (1975)

Bear Bryant was the college football coach from the early 1960s through this retirement in 1983. Bryant left the game as the winningest coach of all time, with 315 wins, and he had won a half-dozen national championship between 1961 and 1979. This book came out at the height of his success. 

“Charlemagne Record Exchange closing after 42 years,” on al.com, December 2019

From the late 1970s until December 2019, Charlemagne was Birmingham’s independent record store. Located in an upstairs shop in Five Points South, the store was a classic record store.

Jason and the Scorchers, “White Lies,” at Farm Aid in 1986

Nashville-based Jason and the Scorchers came early in the “alt-country” movement in the 1980s. This video shows them playing one of their hits at the Farm Aid benefit concert.

Beanland: Rising from the Riverbed (documentary, 2004)

Oxford, Mississippi-based Beanland was an early Southern jam band that played from 1986 to 1993. Members later played in the Kudzu Kings and Widespread Panic.

To contribute to the lists, use the contact form on the about page.

Book Review: “Hold Still” by Sally Mann

Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs by Sally Mann
(Little, Brown and Company, 2016)

Reviewed by Palmer Smith

Hold Still by Sally Mann tells the story of a famous and controversial photographer’s personal history whilst digging into the sleepy culture of the American South. Mann’s ability to write her memoir with such honesty surrounding the connections between her past, present, and future is certainly admirable. The writing is poignant and beautiful, and reminds me very much of my experiences in the South. The stories are written with such emotional depth, and the photographs in the memoir contribute to this emotional intensity. Themes include the artistic process, rebellion, fame, family and controversy. The book is split into four sections categorized in the following order: 1) stories of her childhood in rural Virginia, 2) memories of her mother, 3) her observations of racial injustice in the South and 4) memories of her father. 

The beginning of the memoir places us in Mann’s hometown of Lexington, Virginia. She writes, “I grew up into the person I am today, for better or worse, on those lifeless summer afternoons having doggy adventures that took me far from home, where no one had looked for me or missed me in the least” (19). This upbringing influenced her photography, as she was able to spend so much time alone in nature. She describes herself as being a rebellious teenager, always having a boyfriend and always staying out late. She writes of Lexington with loving affection but also admits that it was an isolated place, split up by class and deeply rooted in racism.

At boarding school, Mann took her first photography class and began to discover what she calls the “thrill” of seeing the negative in front of her (36). She explains that the artistic process is worth it because one has experienced the joy of making something. I believe that the process of writing for Mann is similar to photography—she knows that all of these moments in her life will pass, but she still has her stories here, in someone’s grasp, and that she has created something through experiencing her life.

The photograph “Deep South, Untitled (Scarred Tree),” which is featured in the book, was taken on a road trip Mann took on her own, going through Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. It is apparent that the sleepiness of the South is depicted in this moment. The tree looks like it has been cut at one point, giving the photograph a sense of damage. The tree appears to be old, and because no person is in the photograph, the tree becomes our main focus. Mann’s talent is apparent in each photograph she includes in the book. 

The setting of this memoir is essential because it relates to both Mann’s work and her memories. The South becomes a character itself, and she analyzes its significance by describing the feeling of nostalgia permeating the region. She writes, “I believe we in the South have a different sense of time and its exigencies” (81). Mann is able to explain to the reader in a precise manner how time moves differently in the South compared to other parts of the country. She goes on to directly quote British historian John Keegan, who wrote, “The thing about the South is that it retains for Europeans . . . a lingering aftermath of defeat . . . Pain is a dimension of old civilizations. The South has it. The rest of the United States does not” (81-82). Mann manifests this nostalgia through her photographs, which are often captured in the South. Mann acknowledges that the pain of generations of Blacks who were treated so terribly remains today. The contradiction is that, even in this awful history, the scenery of the South is stunning and haunting, which makes writing about it and photographing it that much more difficult and strange. 

Mann’s career began in the 1970s, but evolved in the ’80s and ’90s, as photographing her children brought controversy around her work. Mann defends her reasoning behind taking controversial photographs of her kids by stating she took most of them when the children were simply playing naked on their farm. Commentary about photos of her young daughter Virginia was written in The New York Times, which stated, “‘Fallen Child’ is beneath contempt as it uses and manipulates and distorts this poor child for no apparent artistic reason” (150). Another Times writer stated, “Mann seems obsessed with situations which may prove disturbing to her children in a few years . . . Time will tell whether and how much her children have been emotionally damaged by her photographs” (139). The nudity, she explains, is really showing the state of being a child. She does not intend for it to be sexual. However, many people argue that Mann’s photographs were not appropriate to publish. I understand both sides of the argument, but I tend to agree with Mann, because I see the photographs as artwork, not sexual material.

Sally Mann has established herself as both a talented photographer and a talented writer in this memoir. She is vulnerable in her writing, and her vulnerability is what makes this memoir so achingly beautiful and compelling. In discovering her beliefs on photography, we also discover her beliefs on writing, and both art forms (when told by her) are honest. This is what makes her art timeless and fantastic.

——

Palmer Smith is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and an incoming MFA and MA student. She has written for Refresh Magazine, The Online Journal for Person-Centered Dermatology, Sea Maven magazine and Calm Down magazine, with work forthcoming in The French Press Zine