By the way, I meant to mention that Charles and I have had it round about “regional” writers. The introduction to the book he gave me starts by making a big point that the three writers featured are “Texas writers.” I told him that this approach reminds me of courses devoted to 19th-century “regional” Spanish writers whose writings reeked of nostalgic, loving evocations of local “customs” and “traditions” full of picturesqueness and sentimental narratives incorporating local turns of speech, utensils and paraphernalia of local trades, place names of areas within a 12-mile radius of the author’s birthplace, and so forth. This genre of writing was called “costumbrismo,” which translates as something like “customism.” I know that every writer has to write about what he knows, and that someone like William Faulkner could qualify as a “regional” writer; but I’m not aware that he ever pursued the label of “Mississippi writer” or that Flannery O’Connor wanted to be remembered as a “Georgia writer.” It may be that the urge to write something of interest to a broad number of readers gets confused with the impulse to “celebrate” a locale and to “record” how people act and talk in a particular environment.
[JMN, Correspondence, 1987]
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