Oxford American's spring 2006 issue

I'm no longer feeling guilty about storySouth's spring/summer 2006 issue being a bit late. My reasoning: even though the temperature outside is in the mid 90s and July sits just around the corner, the spring issue of the Oxford American just hit the stands. As a son of the South, I'm certain that both of these late events result from the sluggishness of high temperatures and long, editorial fishing trips to cool, shady riverbanks.

That said, good things come to those who wait and the Oxford American's new issue if proof of this. The issue is titled "Best of the South." However, instead of mimicking the endless parade of "best of..." newspaper articles and books (featuring, for example, a list of the best barbecue places in the South), the editors of the OA have collected a series of odes to Southern cultural and physical landmarks.

One example of these odes is "An Ode to the Moon Winx Lodge Sign" by Michael Martone. This well written essay examines the history of a neon sign in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, as the sign's motel descends from a classy place to stay to an hourly rental spot to a flop house. Other essays in the issue explore such topics as odes to chicken feet, Memphis nights, and, in what must be one of my favorite titles, "An Ode to a Pretty Ugly Truck."

In recent decades the "ode" has fallen out of favor with many writers, so I am glad to see the OA bringing back this worthy part of our literary heritage. Check out the new issue of OA here.