Driggers, James. “Lovesick”, Kensington, 2015
Southern Gothic Stories
Morris, South Carolina is the setting for James Driggers short story collection that spans the years from the 1930s to today. Morris is a town of all kinds of people that include eccentrics, weirdos, loveable old ladies and they are rich and poor, middle class, black and white, smart and dumb and likeable buffoons. You do not have to live in the South to understand these stories because towns everywhere are just like Morris with the exception that it is the South. The mentality and the heat are different than in most places. Somehow, everyone coexists. They share the ideas of “grappling with desire, ambition, hope, and loneliness” among others.
The landscape of Morris includes farms, trailers and “genteel homes” that hearken back to the South that once was. It is hard not to see that there is an undercurrent between the poor and the rich and some of the characters have had to reinvent and rediscover themselves in order to fit into society. As a man from the South, I can tell you that fitting in is the utmost priority. There are those who use others as stepping-stones to get to where they want.
The upper class is holy to those who are in and a goal to those who are not. We must remember that in the South the only way to become part of the aristocracy is to be born into it. Those who have the wealth but the family are doomed to be part of the nouveau riche. The states where this is really prominent are South Carolina (Charleston), Georgia (Savannah) and Louisiana (New Orleans).
The way the “elite” regards themselves and others is something unique in the South. They also have, as we see here, a unique attitude towards those who societal place is determined by skin color and the lack of “good” family. I once thought to myself how wonderful it must be to be a member of the upper class until I got to know one debutante whose family had a name but no wealth. They had to mortgage the family home that been so for generations in order to pay for the gowns that the daughter needed in order “to come out” to the other members of the upper class. (She had been “out” to me for years).
In one of the stories we see the toxicity of sibling rivalry as well as how the parents seem to care more about societal standing than owing money to everyone in town. But hey, everyone needs to show everyone else just who he or she is.
Eroticism exists in southern life but it is not spoken about aloud (if at all). You will recognize Driggers’ own version of Tennessee Williams’ Blanche Dubois, a woman who falls victim to her own sexual desires.
The stories here are dark and not always nice but they are a great read. Driggers writes with wit and great insight as he explores love and I believe we have a new author to add to the Southern Gothic canon.