Huie to be part of literary trail in ’09
By Andrea Brunty
Plans are in motion to honor William Bradford Huie, one of Alabama’s most prolific authors, as part of a tri-state literary trail set to debut in 2009.
And Carol Puckett of Decatur, who is writing a biography about the late Hartselle author, is excited.
Hartselle will be one stop on the proposed Southern Literary Trail, which will celebrate famous 20th century fiction authors and landmarks in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.
“I personally am extremely happy and honored that he was chosen ... among the authors of Alabama,” Puckett said.
Organizers expect to garner national attention and attract tourism for the trail, which will explore a diverse group of writers who were connected by more than their Southern roots.
“We feel that Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi uniquely have this opportunity, given the fact that all the authors were writing at this time and knew each other,” said project director William Gantt, an attorney in Birmingham.
For example, William March of Alabama mentored Carson McCullers of Georgia, who ended up as a mentor for Richard Wright of Mississippi. Alabama’s own Harper Lee and Truman Capote were friends, and Huie knew William Faulkner of Mississippi.
The trail will celebrate each site with a month of plays, performances, discussions and movie screenings during its planned unveiling in March 2009.
The events will be similar to “Bill Huie and Hollywood,” a lecture by Puckett and movie screening Monday night in Decatur. “The Americanization of Emily,” a film based on Huie’s novel of the same name, will be shown Monday at 7 at Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts.
To promote the trail through comparable events, “the goal is to put a big umbrella over all these celebrations,” Gantt said.
“You know these are great names and great writers, and when you combine them all in one event, you hope that it will be a strong community builder,” he said.
“And, frankly, it will be a great image builder for the Southeast.”
As project director for a Lillian Hellman celebration in Demopolis, Gantt knows firsthand that festivals can successfully attract national attention.
“It certainly proved that literary festivals in small towns can really rally the town and bring tourism in,” he said.
While the project remains in the development stages, it already has received a lot of support from the tourism bureau, said Susan Perry, grants director for the Alabama Humanities Foundation.
The project also ties into Alabama’s Year of Heritage in 2009, which will focus on the state’s literary history, she said.
“We hope you’ll gain a new appreciation and interpretation of their writing when you go to these places,” Perry said.
The trail’s constellation of towns takes a non-linear path from Natchez, Miss., to Savannah, Ga., Gantt said.
“It’s a definite first when it comes to a literary trail (in Alabama). ... In fact, we can’t find another literary trail in the nation that crosses any state borders,” he said.
So, how were authors and cities selected for the diverse trail?
“The map almost made that decision for us,” Gantt said. “The remarkable thing is most of these writers have left us their homes and also landmarks that inspired their writings.”
Planners limited the list to established 20th century fiction writers, focusing on authors who were attached to a community in one of the three states as either their home or inspiration for their work.
In Huie’s case, his house is still in Hartselle, the city’s library is named for him, and he was an important fiction writer, Gantt said.
In addition to Hartselle and Huie, the trail will include these Alabama cities and authors:
Demopolis: Lillian Hellman; Monroeville: Harper Lee and Truman Capote; Mobile: William March, Eugene Walter, Albert Murray; Montgomery: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald; Tuskegee: Ralph Ellison, Murray.
“He’s very much in the league of these great writers ... and very ahead of the times, which are characteristics of all of these people,” Gantt said.
The group is gathering funds to promote the trail through a Web site and brochures, though local supporters will join forces to plan each landmark’s celebration. Organizers hope to be sponsored through each state’s Center for the Book and humanities foundations or councils.
The William Bradford Huie Library of Hartselle, which already has an archives room devoted to the author, will be the center of the city’s festivities.
“Of course we said yes, definitely (when asked to participate in the trail),” Hartselle librarian Emily Love said.
“With Mr. Huie being born in Hartselle, I think many people that are still in the area knew him,” she said.
All the writers were also instrumental at the national level and are often overlooked, Gantt said.
Mississippi authors for the trail include Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Richard Wright and Margaret Alexander.
Authors for Georgia stops include Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Mitchell, Alice Walker, Erskine Caldwell and Lillian Smith.
“There is no other section of the country — no question about that — that has produced the range of important fiction in American life. There’s just no other place that’s comparable,” Puckett said. “We (the South) did pretty good.”
‘Bill Huie and Hollywood’ lecture at Princess
What: “Bill Huie and Hollywood” Lecture. Carol Puckett of Decatur will talk briefly about the late Hartselle author, followed by a screening of “The Americanization of Emily,” a movie adapted from one of his books. Puckett will be available after the 93-minute film for a question-and-answer session.
Where: Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts
When: Monday, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $10 or $5 for students and teachers, available at the door. For more information, call 350-1778 or visit www.princesstheatre.org. See www.decaturdaily.com/decatur daily/livingtoday/071108/huie.shtml for more information.
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