A negative and badly written New York Times review of John Grisham’s new book of short stories states that he grew up in the Delta (some of the time in the Arkansas Delta, perhaps, where his father’s roots are, I think, but I thought mostly in Southaven, which is not in the Delta, and where he moved at 12), and then notes:
Aside from the Upper West and Lower East Sides of Manhattan, the Mississippi Delta has probably generated more and better short fiction per acre than any other real estate in America. Faulkner wrote from here, and Welty, and Larry Brown, and Ellen Gilchrist, and others too numinous to mention. (All right, it is possible to oversanctify these matters. But still.)
It’s unfair, of course, to compare a self-acknowledged writer of popular fiction with such avatars. Yet Grisham seems to ask for it. Southern-Gothic grifters, drunks, misfits, the downtrodden, the dollarless, the desperate and the dying — the timeless rank and file of Delta literature — populate this book. Grisham has read Faulkner, and his fictional Ford County might be seen as a stand-in for Yoknapatawpha County. Listen close, Grisham seems to be urging us, and you can hear the beating of the human heart in conflict with itself.
Did any of these “write from here?”– that is, write from the Delta? Larry Brown’s subject is the hills he lived in without doubt. Faulkner and Welty both set major works in the Delta, but never “wrote from there” and largely set work elsewhere. Ellen Gilchrist mostly “writes from” Fayetteville, Arkansas and Ocean Springs, I think. Without doubt, Yoknapatawpha is not in the Delta. Oh, and the review contains one big clue that Grisham might not be writing about the Delta– “Grisham’s Mississippi may contain precious few African-Americans…”