cover image Southern Sin: True Stories of the Sultry South and Women Behaving Badly

Southern Sin: True Stories of the Sultry South and Women Behaving Badly

Edited by Lee Gutkind and Beth Ann Fennelly. In Fact/Creative Nonfiction (PGW, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-937163-10-5

Dorothy Allison's introduction to this nonfiction anthology about sinful interludes by Southern women may be the best thing about it. In four short pages she explains the pride behind the shame, the Southern story-telling tradition, and provides a lyrical description of sin. Six hundred essays were submitted to Creative Nonfiction magazine, 23 of which were selected for this collection. Most recount personal experiences in memoir-like prose, letting the writer's imagination, by way of first person narration, do most of the sinning. The anthology kicks off with "What Was Left," by Molly Langmuir; if only the mesmerizing quality of her ode to friendship were the norm rather than the exception. While many selections lack the excitement of Langmuir's, several worthy essays deserve mention. In Sheila Raeschild's "Circles of Light," the writer uses her mother's Yiddish slams on bad behavior as the mental backdrop for a long weekend of outrageous sex with a stranger in Miami. New Orleans is the star in "The On-Ramp," Amy Thigpen's exploration of the city's seductiveness. Gail Griffin channels the Brothers Grimm in "Out of the Woods;" the sexism and racism of the time and place turn the local woods into the dark and scary place that was the Medieval forest. Rachael Peckham is a fly on the wall in a golden couple's marriage in the ominous "A Lesson in Merging." (Mar.)