(Photo by Bill McKinney)

I always wondered how Mississippi--and in particular, Greenville--grew such a large crop of brilliant writers, such as Shelby Foote, Walker Percy, Ellen Douglas, etc. etc. After a recent visit to that Delta city, I found the answer in a terrific independent bookstore. McCormick Book Inn, overseen by curmudgeonly Hugh McCormick, is only too happy to enlighten the curious.

It's the brown water. See, Greenville's water isn't crystal clear due to the tannins that give it a rather distinctive beigey cast. "We believe these tannins, not unlike those in fine wines, tend to make us Deltans (and Greenvillians in particular) extremely creative, rather interesting, and inclined to pursue literary enterprise and entertainments," claims Hugh.

I don't know if I'm convinced, but just in case, I bought a bottle of "Genuine Brown Water" from the bookstore. I'm now waiting for a Pulitizer Prize-winning novel to magically spring from my fingertips.