I’ve listened to this Paul Thorn tune “Pimps and Preachers” a few times, thanks to someone who shares genetic background with me who thought I would appreciate it. I do. I do appreciate it.
If there were pimps in my childhood, I never knew it. But there were preachers by the baker’s dozen, and there were drunks. Such good drunks. If the song were “Drunks and Preachers,” I’d be right there, believing it was a song about me. Drunks do tend to take you under their wings and pass out some of the best advice you’ll ever hear, you know. They have a lot of time to think. All that time spent either working on getting drunk or working on sobering up is also sort of time spent sitting around thinking. Drunks know things, and they will impart them to you for very little effort on your own part.
And this brings me to thinking about a time when I was in a book club meeting with other teachers. We’d just read a Rick Bragg book or something of that nature, and someone said, “We’re all just one generation away from being trailer trash.”
“Speak for yourself,” I said. “I’ll never claim to be any generation removed from trailer trash. We’re talking about my people.”
And another time someone who was trying to teach me to write said, “Don’t give me that cornbread crap.”
“Write about what what you know,” he said, “but don’t write about redneck churches and cornbread people.”
Ah, well then. That leaves me without much to say.
I’ve been thinking about all that this week, the inherent snobbery of academia, I suppose. I have a degree in creative writing. I have PhD in CW, in fact. That makes me part of the snobbery, which doesn’t always fit right when you’re still hanging out in the trailer park.
I blogged a story that would not be considered literary in nature, and I felt terrible about it even at the same time that I felt great about it. No one said anything negative. I could just feel the scorn of my whole CW community on me.
This is not so different from redneck churches. This academic snobbishness, it is its own religion.
I feel the same way, in fact, when I write something that might not be considered, strictly speaking, to be “in keeping with” the church. I feel the scorn of others on me for it.
People judge each other. That’s what they do. That’s the way the world operates. If you are judged, that just makes you the same as everyone else. It just means you are getting what you have yourself given out in some other form or fashion.
But my song would not be “Drunks and Preachers” after all. It would be “Professors and Preachers,” the people who tried to steer me each in their own ways.
In the end I have rebelled against them all. I follow the advice of both and the advice of neither in my own particular way. But I owe a debt of love and gratitude, and if I could carry a tune in a five gallon bucket, I would sing them all a country cornbread song.