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Library Journal Review
Defining the South as existing as a ``state of mind both within and beyond its geographical boundaries,'' and culture as a series of ``historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms,'' this monumental reference work analyzes in both broad strokes and minute detail all things southern. In some 24 sections every aspect of southern culture is explored, dissected, and described, from agriculture to women's life. Each section includes an overview essay, alphabetically arranged thematic articles, and brief topical/biographical sketches. All articles are signed, and the cast of contributors numbers in the hundreds. While the sections on literature and music are among the longest, there are excellent sections on black life, folk life, social class, violence, etc. Two of the most fascinating, ``history and manners'' and the ``mythic south'' discuss all things quintessentially southern--barbeque, chitterlings, fried chicken, mint juleps, and moon pies--or viewed as southern--good old boys and girls, moonlight-and-magnolias, and rednecks. Biographical sketches number 250 living and deceased and include a cross section of representative figures from Daniel Boone to Elvis Presley. A worthy complement to the Encyclopedia of Southern History (LJ 4/1/80), this is a stunning achievement in the field of regional reference works and bargain priced to boot.-- Brian E. Coutts, Western Kentucky Univ. Lib., Bowling Green (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Wilson and Ferris have produced an extraordinary review of the South. They vividly evoke the richly varied southern culture through an exceptionally thorough historical and contemporary examination. Southerners will readily see reflections of their own memories and discover phenomena beyond their personal experience. But while pleasantly nostalgic, this encyclopedia is definitely a scholarly work, presenting a strong and unique compilation of research. Obviously, the extensive, expert-driven preparation time of the editors was well spent. Articles are arranged in thematic sections, offering overview essays followed by descriptions of representative people, places, and things. Organization and content are suited to topical study; detailed indexing assists users looking for specific information. Certainly in a work of this size, a few articles could be stronger. Moreover, the emphasis of coverage, at times, seems questionable. For example, in the "Agriculture" chapter, approximately three pages are devoted to country stores, while the section on crops is one page. This allocation of space may be appropriate for an encyclopedia of "culture," but perhaps greater editorial control could have been exercised with contributed articles, which vary in writing style. Nevertheless, the encyclopedia is an excellent description of life in the American South. -T. L. Wesley, Northern Kentucky University