This compilation of stories looks at the weirdest and most interesting aspects of the Southern fiction genre. Usually comprised of Southern Gothic, magical realism, and emotional tales, writings from the American South have a lot to offer. Westover, seeing this, compiled these stories as an homage to the weirdest sorts of writers the South has to offer. From ghost stories to monsters to absolute chaos based on a commercial for orange juice, these stories definitely showcase a unique collection of writers and their understanding of what the old, weird South is really about.
What is The Old Weird South about?
The Old Weird South was put together by Tim Westover, not originally from the American South but now a full time resident. Westover selected stories that he felt represented all sorts of Southerners, and spanned the lifetime of the South from its Native American inhabitants to its modern day. Indeed, the collection features stories ranging from the prehistoric to a modern grocery setting and touch on a lot of interesting and unique themes. Overall, I think the point of the collection is just to celebrate the many different stories that come from the South.
- “Ghost Dog of Georgia” by Camille Alexa
- “To Gnaw the Bones of the Wolf-Mother” by Sean Taylor
- “Yalobusha County, 1862” by Ken Teutsch
- “Yankees in Georgia: Chasing Ghosts and the General along the Old W&A Railroad” by Lewis Powell IV
- “A Hunnerd Dollars, Gold” by Peter Mehren
- “The South, Rise Again” by DL Thurston
- “The Dragon and the Shark” by David Boop
- “Matty and the Grey Man” by Lara Ek
- “Railroad Bill” by Janice Croom
- “Passage” by Daniel Powell
- “The Devil at the Crossroads” by Wenonah Lyon
- “A Busy Day for the Bayou Banshee” by Herb Shallcross
- “The Spook Light” by Jay Rogers
- “That Damned Game” by Kristina R. Mosley
- “Tennessee Ghosts” by Stephen Newton
- “The Gift of Understanding” by Sherry Fasano
- “Bradford House” by Laura Haddock
- “Storm Fronts” by Michael Hodges
- “The Healer” by Josh Strnad
- “A True Story about the Devil and Jamie’s Shoes” by Megan Engelhardt
- “Murdock” by Chris Dezarn
- “Underwater” by Erin Mundy
- “The End of Grace” by Meriah Lysistrata Crawford
- “Florida Natural” by Ben Bowlin
Themes: Magical Realism, Old Monsters, Honesty
There were definitely several stories that presented aspects of magical realism, straight up paranormal activity, and monsters. “Murdock” and “To Gnaw the Bones of the Wolf-Mother” were both stories that dealt with horrific creatures, for example. Another theme I noticed was an almost apologetic honesty about the weirdness of the South. “Murdock” again demonstrates this theme as being a confession about the existence of a mysterious blood thirsty creature, and several of the other stories are presented as true tales passed down orally and honestly by both superstitious and skeptical storytellers.
Oh boy where to start! I think Westover did a very good job of compiling these stories into a collection, and ordering them chronologically was an interesting and masterful choice. The stories vary in length from longer than expected to barely a page of flash fiction, but all of them left me wanting more and more. The writers had very interesting takes on the American South, and some of the stories are just haunting as well as moving. “Ghost Dog of Georgia” was a wonderfully compelling beginning to the collection just as “Florida Natural” was a creative and enthralling ending. It’s not always that I find a short story collection to be both full of well written content and put together in a masterful way but this is certainly the case here. Several of the stories have stuck with me, such as “Underwater” with its untold story and “Matty and the Grey Man”‘s retelling of Blue Beard.
I’m not sure what Westover’s criteria were for deciding what went into this book, and honestly I’m not even sure how the authors came together to write these stories. Some of them were genuinely amazing, while others didn’t quite sit well with the entirety of the anthology. They touch on different subcultures and backgrounds of the American South but not in a necessarily cohesive manner. This can be both a good and a bad thing, as some of the stories are necessarily different while others just…don’t fit. Some stories are strangely optimistic about the superstitions that inspire them, while others are fatalistic and this puts stories that are adjacent but toned differently at strange odds.
To be entirely honest, I don’t have anything really for this category. I did enjoy all of the stories and I wanted more from some of them, which I think was somewhat of the point.
The Old Weird South is full of examples of the kind of short stories that I have and do still write, and love to read. After reading The Winter Sisters by Tim Westover I was excited to see what sort of Southern stories he might have collected here and I was not at all disappointed by what I found. His choices really do reflect the weird and wonderful literary body of the American South. From stories influenced by Native American folktales to those influenced by orange juice commercials, the authors selected for this collection demonstrated talent, creativity, and their connections to the South. If you’re a fan of Southern Gothic, tales of ghosts and strange creatures, or just plain good writing you’ll find what you’re looking for in this masterfully put together collection.