Katherine Faw Morris allowed last Friday in a Buzzfeed article that she can go home again, to Wilkes County, but only out of guilt, at Christmas, and that it causes her to suffer anxiety attacks and to black out in Mexican restaurants, either in her hometown or back in New York once she's made it safely back to LaGuardia.
Plus her apartment in New York is in bad shape and we are supposed to infer that growing up in Wilkes County is to blame for her don't-give-a-shit throw-bleach-at-it attitude.
Joan Didion covered these issues back in the 60s, but I guess you can't fault Morris for mainlining her like black tar heroin and reassembling her ideas now as a means of marketing Young God.
People in my hometown are very offended by the Buzzfeed article, however. The subtitle, which of course she didn't write, doesn't set well with them since she didn't grow up in an impoverished home; she and her friends went slumming way out in the sticks to score drugs.
Today Pietros Maneos has a rebuttal in the Huffington Post designed to make the locals happy (early verdict:: He's classy! He writes in complete sentences!) as well as to send some business to his vineyards and promote his own novella (you couldn't pay me to read Maneos for less than a million dollars and even then I bet you I'd skim).
I'm having a grand old time trying to keep up with it all: My mother-in-law who quit reading the book after two pages (I warned her before I ordered it that it wasn't going to suit her tastes). The classmates who feel she's skewing what the people of the county are really like. The enthusiastic reviewers and the ones who hate it because it's so dark.
So, just a few quibbles. Because Wilkes still hasn't produced enough writers for me to just say eh, and go about my business.
Morris's opinions on our hometown are her own and she can espouse them all she wants, as far as I'm concerned. I left and I'm glad I did. I'm recommending that my teenage niece get out just as soon as she can. Nevertheless, I don't hold everyone who still lives there in contempt and I don't know that she needed to go as far as she did to sell the book. I know people Morris's age back in Wilkes who don't talk like her friends, who don't use drugs, who make a total mockery of her portrayal of them.That is not to say there are not people like Morris's friends there.
I'll just clarify a few factual matters from the Buzzfeed piece. It's the former reporter in me.
Wilkes County is not a three-hour drive from "the airport." It may suit her narrative to make it seem that way, more backwoods, but anyone else would take a flight from New York to Charlotte or Greensboro and then have a 90-minute drive to Wilkesboro. Maybe she wanted to be assaulted by the smell of the paper mills outside Asheville before she smelled the chicken litter? It's not spread around as fertilizer in December, anyway.
Tom Wolfe ate with Junior Johnson and his fiance Flossie Clark "at one of the new fine restaurants in North Wilkesboro, a place of suburban plate-glass elegance." They were seated at the very best table, according to Wolfe. What I find hard to imagine is that he had to stay at the Lowes Motel; maybe it was a nicer place back then.
Every county in the state except for eight out of the one hundred can be called "a county of murderers." Wilkes County's violent crime rate seems to be somewhere in the middle.
Morris's personal stuff is her personal stuff. It's hard to believe that she doesn't know if her best friend from high school has internet when she knows the current contents of her medicine cabinet, but she's marketing her book and she's doing what she needs to do to sell it; maybe her friend knows all about this story and not one word of it is true. Maybe the essay is mostly fiction, same as Young God.
Or maybe she's selling out everybody so that she can't go home again.
Until she has nowhere else to go.
And then she'll write about that.