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Summer and smoke 

See "Related Stories" below for links to this year's features

John: When did you have that feeling?

Alma: August. September. But now the Gulf wind has blown that feeling away like a cloud of smoke, and I know now I'm not dying.

—Tennessee Williams, Summer and Smoke

There's plenty of chauvinistic writing about the South—and there are entire publications devoted to celebrating its culture as well, ranging from Southern Living to Oxford American. Perhaps over the years, the Indy has done some of it, too. But perhaps a bit of breastbeating is in order: Where would America be without the South? For starters, no country, bluegrass, blues, jazz, soul or rock 'n' roll. A literature impoverished by the absence of Faulkner, Wolfe, Welty, O'Connor and Williams. I could go on, but you get the idea.

The concept of summer in the South has a hazy, nostalgic allure—one you can feel whether or not you've recently experienced it: evenings on the veranda with a cold drink, walks to the river through honeysuckle brush, the fog at night, the mid-afternoon naps. Despite the universal use of air conditioning, the summer heat lulls our rhythms and our senses. And when the heat breaks in September, there's a sudden sense of loss. We feel relief from the torpor, yes, but a sense of awaking from a dream.

In thinking about producing stories for this year's summer guide (see "Related Stories" below), our writers decided to delve into activities and humbler elements of Southern summer living that are taken for granted or insufficiently explored—in short, the things we wished we'd thought more about once we realize summer is ending. Things like that rocking chair on the veranda, and the pimento cheese sandwich, and the midnight fishing trip we could have taken. And we thought we'd look at the local stock car racing scene: Far from sponsorships and television, and long after corporatized NASCAR has taken the sport global, drivers and shade tree mechanics continue the short-track tradition that was born in this state.

Most of our Summer Guide section contributors are native Southerners, but they all went out to learn more about overlooked aspects of Southern life. Call it real Southern living.

  • Call it real Southern living.

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