The Deader Mule
In an essay published in our pages in 2000, our friend Jerry Leath Mills surveyed around 30 prominent twentieth-century southern authors, which led him "to conclude, without fear or refutation, that there is indeed a single, simple, litmus-like test for the quality of southernness in literature, one easily formulated into a question to be asked of any literary text and whose answer may be taken as definitive, delimiting, and final. The test is: Is there a dead mule in it?" For our forthcoming special issue on 21st-Century Fiction, we were curious if Mills's hypothesis held up so we brought the question to some of our favorite authors. Is there a "quality of southernness" in 21st-century southern fiction? Is Mills's mule now truly dead?