As the second month of my southern visit comes near to an end, I find that I am enjoying my winter in Dixie very much. This is happening, despite the unusually cold winter and week of snow-covered ground that I have experienced. Nonetheless, one of my favorite moments is listening to the radio comments of Walter Edgars on the local NPR affiliate. His program, called Walter Edgar’s Journal, is intriguing potpourri of local clor and history. Actually, Dr. Walter Edgar is the proper title of the host, who holds a doctorate in history from the University of South Carolina, where he currently teaches.
Walter’s most recent guest was Jan Nordby Gretlund, a Danish associate professor of American literature at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense (Denmark). Currently, Jan Gretlund is a visiting professor at the USC at Beaufort, where he recently hosted a symposium on Southern literature.
Like Dr. Edgar, Gretlund is an author and college professor. His most recent book, entitled “Still In Print: Southern Fiction Today” is a literary sampler that deals primarily with contemporary Southern fiction published since 1997. Missing are the big names of Faulkner, Welty and Percy and in their place you will find such modern writers as George Singleton, James Lee Burke, Josephine Humphreys and Barry Hannah. In this book Mr. Gretlund attempts to show how the Southern writing tradition is still alive and providing rich material for both leisure readers and academics. In fact, the popularity of Southern writers in Europe somewhat mirrors the success that the various Scandinavian crime fiction authors now enjoy in the US.
In Denmark, Jan Gretlund runs the Center or American Studies at the Odense college. His involvement with the American South actually began in 1962, when enlisted in the US Army and served for several years at an Air Force base in Mississippi, despite being a native of Denmark. Not a bad way to begin one’s academic career.