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Cowboys, Dead Mules, and Other Regional Lit Cliches

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: books, literature, regional literature, fiction, Christian Century, High Country News, Clyde Edgerton, Laura Pritchett, great writing, Keith Goetzman,

Dallas cowboy statue

When you read a Western novel, you know that cowboy hats may be involved, and when you read Southern lit you might expect the appearance of a moss-covered mansion. But these sorts of expectations from readers and publishers can be frustrating for writers who don’t want to fill their books with clichés.

North Carolina novelist Clyde Edgerton gets at this in an amusing exchange with writer Amy Frykholm at the Christian Century:

Western writer Laura Pritchett makes a more pitched complaint in “The Western Lit Blues” in High Country News:

Pritchett acknowledges that some of her peers are broadening their scope—“the oil drillers of Alexandra Fuller’s nonfiction, the odd lovers in Rick Bass’ novels, the Spanish-infused language and Chicano influence in Aaron Abeyta’s poetry”—so it’s not that writers can’t and won’t push boundaries. It’s just that a self-perpetuating mythology can stifle artistic innovation:

Sources: Christian Century, High Country News

  Image by crowt59, licensed under Creative Commons.