The headline on my Facebook newsfeed sucked me in, as was its goal.
This map, it said, shows the most famous book set in every state.
Why a website called Business Insider compiles such lists I dont know, but I clicked immediately, curious to see the most famous book set in North Carolina. Would it be Thomas Wolfes Look Homeward Angel? Charles Fraziers Cold Mountain? Or maybe A Long and Happy Life, the debut novel that vaulted Reynolds Price to national fame?
Wrong, wrong and wrong. The most famous book set in North Carolina, according to Business Insider, is Nicholas Sparks A Walk to Remember.
Until it appeared on Business Insiders list, I had not heard of this 1999 bestseller, which became a movie starring Mandy Moore. Its main character is a teenager in Beaufort who dies of cancer. Sparks, who lives in New Bern, has set many of his novels in North Carolina.
Though I puzzle at this choice, I still like the list because its selections especially the random-seeming ones make great conversation starters. ( The Wizard of Oz for Kansas? Come on. The books setting is mostly Oz. Truman Capotes In Cold Blood is a totally better choice.)
Also, the list gives a sense of the depth or lack of depth of each states literary traditions. Surely it was a struggle to come up with a book for a few states. South Dakota, for instance, got Tom Brokaws memoir, A Long Way From Home: Growing Up in the American Heartland in the Forties and Fifties.
North Carolina, on the other hand, has loads of contenders. When I called Ed Southern, director of the N.C. Writers Network, his first thought was Look Homeward, Angel, published in 1929 and set in Asheville. Its a classic, probably the greatest book set in North Carolina. Its also not read much these days. The most famous stipulation makes the choice trickier.
So we kept brainstorming. Southern said he could make a strong case for Charles Fraziers 1997 Civil War-era novel, Cold Mountain, which was a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger. I recalled that Robert Morgans Gap Creek became plenty famous as an Oprahs Book Club pick. We agreed that Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Allan Gurganuss 1989 bestselling novel, should be in the running.
If youve got another suggestion, let me know on my blog: readinglifeobs.blogspot.com. Also, what do you say about South Carolina? Business Insider chose Sue Monk Kidds The Secret Life of Bees. Id go with a Pat Conroy book, probably The Lords of Discipline.
Pam Kelley: 704-358-5271; firstname.lastname@example.org