There are many things I love about living in Decatur, Georgia, but one of my favorites (if not the favorite) is the Decatur Book Festival. Last year, in preparation for the festival I did a series of indie bookstore features of some of Atlanta’s independent bookstores. This year I thought I’d do a Literary Guide to Atlanta. From site-seeing, to literary bites, to the best places to read in public, here are some of my favorite literary things to do and see in and around the city. First up, I’d love to share some of my favorite ‘main-stream’ literary sites in Atlanta (they are incidentally all author homes). Later this week, I’ll share my favorite little-known attractions. I hope you enjoy. The Margaret Mitchell House – Just a short drive down Peachtree Street in the heart of the city (literally, spitting distance from the Fox Theatre), the Margaret Mitchell House paints a fascinating picture of life for a trendy, high society,female author in 1920s Atlanta. Before she was famous for authoring Gone with the Wind, Mitchell was infamous in Atlanta for performing a provocative dance at a debutante ball and marrying a boot-legger. The house is set up exactly as it was in Mitchell’s life, and includes an exhibition of the movie version of Gone with the Wind and her life. The latter is the more fascinating. As a member of the Lost Generation, Mitchell lived through both world wars, lost a fiance in the first, was made to settle in her burgeoning southern home town because of family tragedy, was intimately connected with her past through stories of the Civil War told to her by family members, broke gender norms by writing for newspapers and winning a Pulitzer Prize, and benefited from unprecedented success as an author, spurned on by no greater power than Hollywood. Not to be missed. To be followed by a show at the Fox, naturally. The Wren’s Nest. The home of Joel Chandler Harris, better known to many of us as Uncle Remus, The Wren’s Nest is much more than an author’s museum. Many visitors go for the first time out of a sense of nostalgia for the tales of Brer Rabbit that we grew up hearing. It’s a revelation, then, to learn the true historical and literary significance of Harris’ work. Today the center exists, and has existed since 1913, in order to continue Harris’ work of perpetuating African American folklore heritage through storytelling. They offer professional storytelling every Saturday at 1pm and, simply, is not to be missed. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. There are many reasons why pilgrims go The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. All are excellent reasons, and if, for whatever reason, you’re wavering, go. Just go. I’ll suggest another, and it is that King was a prolific writer and orator, and the center gives you the opportunity to hear his words preached aloud from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church. If for no other reason than that, it is worth a visit. The center consists of several sites, including the home where King was born, Ebenezer Baptist Church where he was minister, and the serene grounds of the King Center. Andalusia Farm, Milledgeville, Ga. We’ve gone slightly outside the Atlanta city limits, but I think you’ll forgive me just this one time. You can’t come all the way to Decatur for the largest independent book festival in the country, a mere 2 hours from the home of the greatest southern gothic writer who so perfectly depicted the grotesque beauty and awfulness of faith and southerness and human nature, and not take a trip to Flannery O’Connor’s home on Adalusia Farm. Y’all know how I feel about O’Connor, so I won’t try to persuade you now. I’ll just let Ann Napolitano do the talking. Last September, I’d just finished reading A Good Hard Look and announced on Twitter that the book inspired me to make a trip down to Andalusia. Napolitano surprised me by tweeting back:
@Ernielow It’s wonderful, enjoy. In case it’s of interest, here’s an article about my visit to Andalusia this summer: bit.ly/q6wUJf
Have you been to any of these site? What are some of your favorite literary sites in Atlanta or in your city? I’d love to hear.