You’ll find them throughout the South—people and places worthy of a spot on your bookshelf, immortalized within the pages of some of the most beloved literature of all times: The Prince of Tides; Look Homeward, Angel; Porgy and Bess. Before heading to the library for your supply of summer reading, check out places right here in the Carolinas that have inspired world-class writing.
One of today’s most acclaimed authors, Pat Conroy’s stories feature South Carolina settings that are as memorable and vivid as the characters who inhabit them. One of these is Daufuskie Island, an eight-square-mile sea island between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, Georgia. In his 1972 novel The Water is Wide, he calls the island “Yamacraw,” the fictional locale of Conroy’s real-life job teaching underprivileged children in a one-room schoolhouse. The basis for the film Conrack starring Jon Voight, the book depicts the Gullah culture still preserved on the remote island. Today, Daufuskie is home to picturesque golf courses and stunning vacation homes, as well as remnants of the island’s rich history – the 130-plus year-old First Union African Baptist Church, the 1800’s Haig Point and Bloody Point Lighthouses and the schoolhouse where Conroy taught. Accessible only by ferry, the island is best toured on foot or bicycle or by golf cart. Visit www.daufuskieislandrentals.com for more information.
Daufuskie Island is just one of the sites Conroy weaves into his stories. The Citadel, called “South Carolina Military Institute” in The Lords of Discipline, is a Charleston landmark dating to 1842. Today, it admits some 2,000 students to its corps of cadets. Select Friday afternoon visits provide a firsthand view of the pageantry and precision of the military parades Conroy describes. Go to www.citadel.edu for a parade schedule and other visitor information.
Nearby, get a glimpse of the “Colleton” Conroy tells of in his most famous work, The Prince of Tides. Find inspiration at the Great Swamp Sanctuary in Walterboro, at the heart of Colleton County. This 842-acre preserve affords up close encounters with diverse wildlife including wild turkeys, deer, waterfowl and songbirds as you hike, bike or explore by canoe or kayak. One of its paths even follows a stagecoach road dating to the colonial era. Details are available at www.walterboro.org.
One of the most celebrated characters born in the South is “Porgy,” brought to life in a novel of the same name by Charleston writer Dubose Heyward in 1925. The novel was later the basis for the play Porgy and Bess
, co-written by Heyward and his wife Dorothy, and then for the opera by the same name with music written by George Gershwin. The story of a beggar in Charleston’s slums takes place largely in the fictional “Catfish Row,” based on the actual Cabbage Row, now part of the picturesque Rainbow Row. Today, the homes are a Charleston icon and a sight to behold. Read more about them and arrange your tour at www.charlestonlowcountry.com.
In North Carolina, a visit to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville brings the pages of Look Homeward, Angel to life. The historic boarding house was Wolfe’s childhood home and the setting for his sweeping first novel. Today, the Old Kentucky Home, called “Dixieland” in his book, is open for touring. Now through October, enjoy free musical entertainment the first Friday of each month, during “Pickin’ on the Porch.” For information on this and other events at the Wolfe Memorial, visit www.wolfememorial.com.
In the coming weeks, as you look for unique and memorable diversions, look no further than your favorite reading material. On those pages, you just might find the roadmap to a great time right here in the Carolinas.