The satisfying result of a bunch of southern writers deciding: “Hey! Let’s put out an anthology!”
It started at the annual meeting of Southern Writers Reading in Fairhope, Alabama, when the group’s erstwhile leader, an editor and bookstore owner named Sonny Brewer, announced to the group that he thought it would be a cool idea if they published a chapbook. Thirty writers then contributed pieces, mostly fiction, just about all very short, and generally quite good. Like any good southern anthology, it starts off with a Civil War story—“Final Spring,” by Marlin Barton—that tells it straight and sad. A jump into the present day comes with C. Terry Cline Jr.’s hilarious, Barthleme-esque “S. Trident,” which consists of an exchange of letters between a man who buys an old Army base at auction (only to discover it’s a not-entirely-decommissioned missile silo) and the stunningly blasé officer who answers his questions about the utilities and strange leaks. There are some bigger names scattered throughout this smorgasbord, like W.E.B. Griffin and Pat Conroy, but their pieces are pretty slim and feel tossed-off. Suzanne Hudson’s “The Fall of the Nixon Administration” uses Watergate as a backdrop for her comic tale of a prudish daughter caught between her wanton mother, her closeted husband, and the beautiful and repulsive rampant id figure that’s her mother’s younger boyfriend. The Civil War shows up yet again, in “Killing Stonewall Jackson” by Michael Knight, an almost unbelievably horrid and gothic slice of the lives of some soldiers who go by the monikers Ghost Story and Gellar the Jew; it’s funny and haunting simultaneously. With the exception of some pieces that feel just too painfully thin, this is an uncommonly even and rewarding collection.
Eschewing most of the usual clichés of southern writers—but not self-consciously trying to avoid them either—Blue Moon Café is a decidedly tasty buffet.