best writers highlighted
in Kentuckys literary Anthology
Helen E. McKinney
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (January 2006) If Jesse Stuart
could do it, so could Wade Hall. In his long career as educator and
author, Hall has discovered the true literary thread that runs through
Kentuckys prolific vein of authors. Through the fruits of his
labor, he has produced a 200-year anthology of Kentucky writing.
by Helen E. McKinney
Hall in November released his new book profiling Kentucky writings.
Halls latest book is entitled, The Kentucky
Anthology: Two Hundred Years of Writing in the Bluegrass State.
Like Stuart, Hall chose teaching as his lifelong profession. And also
like Stuart, Hall has written extensively about the things that have
influenced him most in his lifetime.
At 71, Hall said he has been a college professor for most of my
life. Originally from Union Springs, Ala., he came to Louisville
in 1962 to take over as chairman of the English Department at Kentucky
Southern College. Hall earned a bachelors degree from Troy State
University, a masters degree from the University of Alabama and
a doctorate degree from the University of Illinois.
Through years of teaching Kentucky literature, he learned to love and
appreciate the significance of Kentucky writers. I couldnt
have had a better career in anything else.
Now retired from teaching, Hall plans to return to his native Alabama
soon to enjoy its beauty and richness. As I close out my career,
I wanted to do something to symbolize my career in Kentucky and pay
tribute to 200 years of writers and writing, said Hall.
Three years ago, Hall was asked by Stephen Wrinn, director of the University
Press of Kentucky, to make a list of 40 essential Kentucky writers,
said Hall. Not able to include every single Kentucky author who ever
breathed, he narrowed down his list to 40 authors whom he considered
absolutely essential to include in such a book.
I selected the writers whose work I have taught and for whom my
students were very excited (to learn about), said Hall. He noted
the way students would react to certain short stories, novels or poetry
collections written by Kentucky authors.
It is the daunting challenge of any anthology editor to decide what
works to include, said Wrinn. Hall already had the idea of such a work
in place prior to Wrinns arrival at the University Press of Kentucky
four years ago, said Wrinn. He suggested Hall put together his
dream table of contents, in an effort to narrow the field.
Most people would be in a 75 percent agreement on who to include, with
25 percent left up to individual tastes, said Wrinn. Hall did
a spectacular job balancing everyone associated with Kentucky.
The authors and their works selected for his anthology represent
every section of Kentucky, he said. From Pikeville to Paducah,
from Florence to Bowling Green, Hall has provided insight on what it
means to be a Kentucky writer.
The book includes such early authors as John Filson, Irwin S. Cobb and
Pewee Valleys own Annie Fellows Johnson. Although she was a native
of southwestern Indiana, Johnson came to Kentucky and made it
her own. She made the people and cultures of Kentucky her own.
He said that, unarguably, Robert Penn Warren was the best writer Kentucky
has ever produced.
But Stuart is the one I liked best personally, said Hall.
He believed in himself.
At age 28, Hall had just earned his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois
and went south to teach at the University of Florida.
The head of the English Department called one day asking if he would
pick up Stuart from the airport. Hall couldnt refuse and within
10 minutes of riding in the car with Stuart, we bonded.
Nobody writes better about the Kentucky hills than James Still,
said Hall. Still, who lived in Hindman, Ky., was also a native of Alabama.
Hall also includes Wendell Berry of Henry County and the late Harlan
Hubbard of Trimble County in his massive work. Their works are
read around the world, he said. Hubbard, whom he knew well and
interviewed for a booklet published by UKs Occasional Papers
Series, was a wonderful writer and lived a lifestyle lots
of people today envy.
After being gone from his Alabama roots for more than 40 years, Hall
has continued his love affair with southern culture. I always
planned to return, and be buried with my family.
As he contemplates his return to Alabama, Halls life has come
full circle. He said of Stuart, Hes the only writer to sell
books to people who couldnt read. With 20 or so books to
his credit, Hall may just match Stuart on that level.
Wade Halls anthology can be purchased
for $45 from many area bookstores. A discussion on Kentucky writers
and book signing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 13 at one of the Louisville
area Barnes and Noble Bookstores.
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