We’ve read and reread Southern writers’ work so often that the authors have begun to feel like neighbors. In fact, some of the country’s most memorable writers grew up in the South, just around the corner, down the block, or a few towns over. This literary road trip takes us through Georgia, the land of red clay and pine trees that inspired some of our favorite Southern writers to take up a pen and describe the world around them. The South’s literary culture is rich and varied, so take a drive through Georgia, and make sure to stop at these literary landmarks along the way.
First stop: Columbus, Georgia
A native of Columbus, Georgia, Carson McCullers is best known for her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which was published when she was 23 years old. McCullers lived in several places during her lifetime, including North Carolina and New York, but her years spend in Georgia made an indelible mark on her life and work.
SEE: Columbus State University owns and operates the Smith-McCullers Home, located at 1519 Stark Avenue in Columbus. The building is the childhood home of McCullers, and it has been turned into a museum and archive, The Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, which celebrates the life and work of the writer.
STAY: A 10-minute drive southwest of The Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians, the Rothschild-Pound House Inn bed and breakfast offers unforgettable accommodations, famed hospitality, and a seasonal breakfast menu in a historic 1870s inn within walking distance from the Chattahoochee River.
EAT: Also within walking distance from the Rothschild-Pound House Inn, Minnie’s Uptown Restaurant offers plates of authentic Southern soul food. A cafeteria-style lunch spot, Minnie’s has some of the best gooey macaroni and cheese and smooth chicken and dumplings this side of the Chattahoochee.
READ: In addition to reading McCullers’ The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, pick up a copy of The Member of the Wedding, The Ballad of the Sad Café, or Reflections in a Golden Eye, the last of which was adapted into a 1967 film directed by John Huston and starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor.
Two and a half hours northeast of Columbus and located in the heart of the state, we reach our next stop, Milledgeville, Georgia.
Born and raised in Milledgeville, Georgia, Flannery O’Connor remains the master of Southern Gothic style. Her short stories are the stuff of legend, and throughout the South (and the country) there are more than a few devotees of her novel Wise Blood.
SEE: Baldwin County, Georgia is home to Andalusia, O’Connor’s family farm. Just a few miles north of Milledgeville, Georgia, you can explore the home and grounds where some of O’Connor’s most beloved tales were first spun. The property—made up of a historic farmhouse and grounds spanning over 500 acres—is open for self-guided walking tours on Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
STAY: The Antebellum Inn Bed & Breakfast is located about 4 miles south of Andalusia in the hub of Milledgeville, a laid-back college town. Elegant and comfortable, the B&B was built in 1890 and features a breezy, wraparound porch in addition to gorgeous interior amenities. There is even a decorative peacock on the mantle. We’re sure Flannery O’Connor would approve.
EAT: Aubri Lane’s is an upscale restaurant serving a diverse dinner menu with an array of wines, cocktails, and delectable appetizers—try Aubri’s award-winning Pimiento Cheese or the Fritto Misto. For a more casual meal, try Buffington’s Burger Lounge, a local downtown favorite serving nachos, sandwiches, and, of course, both gourmet and classic burgers.
READ: You can’t go wrong with The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor, which won the National Book Award in 1972. Or dive into O’Connor’s epistolary correspondence with The Habit of Being, a collection of letters written by the author throughout her lifetime. Anyone wanting to explore the mind of the writer will find abundant treasure in this tome.
From Milledgeville, take I-75 or I-20 towards Atlanta.
The third stop on this literary road trip is Atlanta, where Georgia’s original blockbuster book-turned-movie Gone with the Wind was written. Margaret Mitchell published Gone with the Wind in 1936; it won the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, and her characters were soon immortalized on the silver screen, played by the likes of Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Hattie McDaniel, and Olivia de Havilland.
SEE: Located in Midtown, Margaret Mitchell’s Atlanta home has been turned into a multi-purpose museum, with exhibits on the writer’s life and a guided tour through the apartment in which the novel was written. The Margaret Mitchell House also hosts writing camps and lectures throughout the year. The house is open to visitors every day of the week (Monday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.), and tours of the property run throughout open hours.
STAY: When in Atlanta, stay in iconic accommodations. The Georgian Terrace is as beautiful as it is historic. Located in Midtown near the famous Fox Theatre, there is no shortage of music, theatre, and sights to see—all just a stone’s throw from the hotel, your home-away-from-home in Atlanta.
EAT: Get your fill of contemporary Southern fare and creative cocktails at The Lawrence in Midtown Atlanta. For dinner, sit outside on the patio on a warm summer evening and order from their progressive wine list. Peruse the menu, where the main dishes are as inventive as the city of Atlanta itself. The Lawrence also offers brunch and dinner, so stop by any time; they have something for everyone.
READ: For this leg of the trip, you’ll want to reread Mitchell’s classic, Gone with the Wind. For insight into Mitchell’s life and times, you may want to peruse her early work, Lost Laysen, or a biography such as Anne Edwards’ Road to Tara: The Life of Margaret Mitchell.
Countless other literary greats were born and raised in Georgia too. You may also want to swing by these Southern writers’ old stomping grounds:
Alice Walker, National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, was born in Putnam County, Georgia.
Ferrol Sams, a physician and novelist, was born in Fayette County, Georgia. His novel, When All the World Was Young, won the Townsend Prize for Fiction in 1991.
Lewis Grizzard, famed Southern writer and humorist, is well known for his columns published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Grizzard was born in Fort Benning, Georgia and lived in Atlanta for many years.
Sue Monk Kidd was born in Sylvester, Georgia, a small town in the southern part of the state. Kidd wrote The Secret Life of Bees and, more recently, The Invention of Wings.