Posted by R. Neal

Jesse Fox Mayshark, former editor of the local alternative weekly paper here in Knox Vegas (local-speak for Knoxville, TN) is on a mission. When he's not slaving away somewhere deep in the bowels of the New York Times, that den of liberal sedition up there in New York City, JFM is launching the Red State Reader, a new literary publication that celebrates diversity and progressive thought in his adopted South.

The inaugural edition hasn't quite made it into print, but it's available here at Redstatereader.com. Following are some excerpts:

Jesse Fox Mayshark introduces the Red State Reader with "They Hate Us (a.k.a. Why a Red State Reader?)":

...There was a sense of betrayal, alienation, things coming apart. And so it went everywhere. Whatever national unity had briefly emerged to do triage after the massacres had long dissipated. Looking at the electoral maps, with all that hostile red and blue ink, it was easy to imagine fences, moats, mine fields.

...The national media, still largely based in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, scrambled to figure out how to reach Red State Americans, this exotic population presumed to be so different in outlook and values.

All of which was understandable and maybe inevitable, but also so simple-minded that it made my teeth hurt. As some self-styled moderates tried to demonstrate with maps showing the country as a mass of undulating purple, the nation doesn't break down along such neat lines. There are a lot of voices missing. I know some of them personally, because I lived in the fine city of Knoxville, Tennessee, for nearly a decade before moving to the equally fine city of New York. The history of the country is such that culture and politics and religious zeal, conservatism and radicalism, have intertwined and cross-fertilized each other in mutating recombinations since its founding, and before. No sweeping statement can be made about any region of the nation that can't be quickly tattered by contradictory evidence.

Then there's this piece by Joe Tarr, a former writer for the local alt-weekly (and one of my favorites) on Gay Day in Rhea County, a celebration that ensued when Rhea County officials banned "those kind of people" from living in their county, declaring they would be charged with "crimes against nature" if caught:

In appearance, Dayton doesn't rank all that high on the hick scale. On the outskirts of town, there's a typical sprawling strip of fast-food restaurants, gas stations and a Wal-Mart. Several antique shops and homegrown restaurants clutter the main drag downtown, where there's a quaint folksiness that would appeal to tourists and yuppies from the big city.

Walk into Brad Putt's music shop across the street from the historic courthouse and you might hear the Sex Pistols, Radiohead, Esquivel or The Darkness playing on the stereo, and kids from the local rock bands drop by. When people were holding protest and apocalyptic signs across the street, Putt stood outside his shop with one that read "Buy A Guitar."

Then there's this piece by yours truly, R. Neal (the blogger formerly known as SKB) with a humorous look at "Tennessee: Myth v. Fact"

But most of the things you think you know about Tennessee are probably not true. For example, you probably think that the University of Tennessee's head football coach is paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million per year while Tennessee public school teachers' annual raises don't even cover the increase in their health insurance premiums. But you would be wrong. Coach Fulmer makes $2 million per year.

There's more, including a rundown of the Houston hip-hop scene, music and film reviews, and classic literature and essays from Southern history. As they say, read the whole thing!

The Red State Reader joins other great Southern publications like Southern Exposure (published by the Institute for Southern Studies, the home of Facing South) and the Oxford American as another "thinking person's alternative" to Field and Stream and Southern Living (with no disrespect to those fine publications -- I've subscribed to both for decades) for outstanding periodic Southern literature.

OK, then.