Last night I stayed up and finished reading Willie Morris’ North Toward Home. I only discovered Willie Morris’ writing within the last six months and found in him a kindred spirit. He is a Southerner, one shot through with love of the soil, the drawls, the manners, the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle, the delta, and the ways roads portend both escape and return.
The first few books I read from Willie Morris were wonderful reminders of small-town Southern life and times largely gone now. He wrote of his marvelous dog Skip, or twins who fooled their competitors in footraces by relaying, of the unique aunts and uncles in nearly everyone’s family who exhibit such quirks and odd mannerisms, you think you’re reading a Dickens novel from the 1800s and not of 1950s life in the American South.
In North Toward Home, however, Morris wrote on his college years in Texas and England, of the racially charged 1950s and 1960s, of the unconscienable politics of both Democrats and Republicans and how both pimp their constituents via sloganeering and bromides and bribes, of his going to New York to become a writer and editor, etc. But most of all, North Toward Home is a wonderful reminder that home for Willie Morris was where he learned to see past skin color, past educational pedigrees (or lack thereof), and towards the reality that we are people first, last, and finally. Anything else is sniping at our humanity. A wonderful reminder from Willie Morris is North Toward Home. Our 2023 culture could benefit from relearning that humanity transcends politics, that literature is a unique private way that pricks our hearts and imaginations, and that usually the best things in life revolve around love, sacrifice, home, and hearth.