The Story of Florida

Today, I received my requested material from the Inter-Library Loan service, which I discovered is like Christmas for academic nerds like me. There is a Master’s thesis I will examine for my research, however only one copy exists, and it is at the University of Mississippi. I asked for it from ILL, and voilà! It get delivered to UF–just for me!

The coolest thing is, it’s a thesis written by Patrick Smith, another famous Florida author who also wrote about the Florida Crackers. Smith wrote this for his Master’s degree at Ole Miss, long before he got famous, and long before any other comprehensive study about Marjorie’s literary career was published. It was also written in 1959, which make it extra special material.

Patrick Smith Thesis

The front, typewritten page of Patrick Smith’s Master’s thesis. It’s nice and dusty, too. I’ve realized history research really tests one’s resistance to airborne allergies.

Smith, another brilliant storyteller of Florida pioneer life, particularly known for A Land Remembered, argues that Marjorie should someday be ranked as one of the best authors of the 20th century, which at the time this thesis was published, she was somewhat forgotten in the American literary landscape. In his study, Smith conveys admiration for her work and for her stories, and provides a detailed appreciation for passages from her novels and short stories, and the background of the stories: Marjorie’s relentless research methods. Once, he writes, she almost was arrested while staying with a moonshining family in he Scrub forest whose illegal still was discovered.

Her factual precision and endearing themes about life in the face of adversity provide the richness within her work. And what truly enables her to tell the story of Florida so perfectly.

I once thought that a Florida Cracker would be the last person on earth about whom I would care to read. That Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings has made these poverty-stricken, inarticulate, earthy folk as interesting as a member of the Sorbonne is thanks to her superb art. Mrs. Rawlings’ language is fascinating; her understanding is rich; and her inspiration is virile.

-Patrick Smith, A Study of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings


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