Author Julie Williams with New South Books

Post date: Jan 4, 2018 11:38:54 PM

Author Julie Williams with New South Books (Montgomery, Alabama)

Dear Readers and Dear Writers, I’ve just received some interesting information about an intriguing new book, which traces the roots of Southern literature. Three Not-So-Ordinary Joes: A Plantation Newspaperman, Printer’s Devil, English Wit, and the Founding of Southern Literature by Samford University journalism professor Julie Hedgepeth Williams is due out from NewSouth Books in late spring 2018.

Three Not-So-Ordinary Joes focuses on the curious intersection of the lives of Joseph Addison Turner, Joseph Addison, and Joel Chandler Harris. Turner tried and failed and tried and failed at publishing magazines, poems, books, and articles, all while halfheartedly running a Georgia plantation in the years leading up to the Civil War. When war broke out and he no longer had access to New York publishers, he realized he could throw a printing press into one of the plantation outbuildings and run a newspaper from there instead. His paper, The Countryman — the only newspaper ever published on a plantation — was one of the most widely read in the Confederacy.

Following Joseph Addison’s lead (Turner was Addison’s namesake), Turner used his paper to suggest that slaves be treated well and laud the contributions of women. With often-humorous copy, The Countryman celebrated Southern culture. The newspaper collapsed at the end of the Civil War, and Turner died a few years later, but not without his young printer’s devil, Joel Chandler Harris, taking up his legacy.

Joel Chandler Harris became the father of the Uncle Remus stories. While working for Turner, he often joined Turner’s children at dusk in the slave cabins, listening to the fantastical animal stories the Negros told. Young Harris recognized the tales’ subversive theme of the downtrodden outwitting the powerful. Later collected and published, the tales found a widely popular audience. They also directly influenced writers as significant as Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, and Beatrix Potter. Most importantly, Uncle Remus knocked New England off its perch as the focus of American belles-lettres, and established for Southern literature a place of its own.

Author Julie Williams has crafted a small book that cleverly traces an extraordinary tale. Her fresh approach to the literary history brings it to life and returns us to consideration of the literary gifts of Joseph Addison, Joseph Addison Turner, and Joel Chandler Harris (“her three Joes”).

Lisa Harrison

Publicity Associate, NewSouth Books

105 S. Court St. Montgomery, AL 36104

334-834-3556 (office)