A few weeks ago, a friend posted a link on Facebook to a new website called The Bitter Southerner. I was intrigued. I started reading. I read some more. Eventually I thought to myself, what a cool online magazine. I noticed that the Editor is Chuck Reece. He was one of the editors at the University of Georgia school newspaper, the Red and Black, when I was there 30+ years ago.
I like the premise of The Bitter Southerner. Most of what outsiders know about the south is false, or misleading, or only partly true. The stories in the Bitter Southerner are showing the real diversity we have here.
I had a delightful conversation with Chuck, and I knew we would get along when we started talking and he said he was going to take his miniature dachshund, Mavis, to walk, while we talked. I had just walked my basset hound, Lola.
What is your full name? Charles Clarence Reece
Where would you live, if you could live anywhere in the world? Difficult question for me… I’d honestly have probably 3 places; somewhere on the beach, probably a house on the Florida panhandle, a place in the mountains probably near North GA, an apartment in New York City and an apartment in Paris.
What is your favorite movie and why? Manhattan, by Woody Allen. It came out when I was a senior in high school and it was one of those movies that made me want to have some adventures in places other than where I’d grown up. It paints such a pretty picture of New York City. The interesting thing about New York is when I move up there first time, for an internship, it was like the city actually lived up to the movie. It’s one of those pieces of art that sort of change the way you look at the world.
What was your least-favorite subject in school when you were a kid? Statistics. It was really hard and I don’t have a math brain.
What was your nickname when you were a kid? Chuck – what I still go by now. When I was a little most of my family called me Charles and they’re all gone now.
Do you believe in God? That’s a central question in my life. I would say that I believe in the essential goodness of people and I think that can be an expression of the God-like.
What sound or noise do you love? Music. Music. Music. I’ve just always been a huge music fan. I grew up around music. I probably listen to as much music during the course of a regular day as anybody out there except maybe musicians. We always had a record on the turntable. I never got rid of my records. I’ve still got all 2,000 or so.
If you could do anything other than what you do, as a profession, what would it be? Honestly, with The Bitter Southerner right now doing exactly what I think I’ve always wanted to do. Now I just have to figure out a way to make money on that. I’m good enough at what I do in writing and editing that those services are in demand and I’m able to make a living.
If heaven exists, what do you think it is like? My heaven would have an enormous and wide variety of music, all of which I could watch performed from a comfortable chair. It would probably have whiskey, and all my friends, which is why I think I’m living in heaven now.
Do you have siblings? No. My parents were married 21 years before they had me.
What is your favorite memory of childhood? Christmas mornings before my mom died were always super special. Dad was the 11th of 12 kids, so I was one of the youngest. I got all the attention of mom and dad but also my uncles and aunts. So it was like a big party where everyone gave me things.
If you had to choose between one week traveling around the USA by car, or one week traveling around Europe on a train, which would you choose and why? I’ve done both. It really would just depend on my mood. I’d want to take the car trip… my motivation would be a lot about food and music. Riding the train would be about soaking myself in other cultures.
What inspires you? Lots of things. Great writing. Great art of any kind inspires me. Whether it’s art you read, art you hear, or art you eat and drink. I just like the idea of things that are made with care. If I know that I’m consuming something someone else puts their heart into that makes me happy.
We want to tell stories [at The Bitter Southerner] of people that do that kind of thing. We hope to provide a source of inspiration for everyone.
Which holiday do you prefer, Christmas or July 4th? Christmas, still. The feeling of home, you know, the feeling of coziness that’s possible. I do love a good 4th of July barbeque now, though.
What project or idea are you most passionate about, right now?
That would be The Bitter Southerner. We had this idea when we started it that the subject of The South and what it means to be southern. The way people outside the south seem to misunderstand us or stereotype us was a subject that was pretty rich, and we felt pretty passionate about exploring it. We hoped there would be a small group of people that would feel the same. It’s turned out to be a bigger group of people than we dreamed it would be. We have more than 6,000 people that subscribe to our weekly newsletter. We seem to have caught the eye of people who want to explore the things we like.
It’s true, if you do what you love you’ll never have to go to work. It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun. We’re meeting a lot of nice people, too, of all kinds. Not just photographers and writers and artists.
The Southern Storyteller Series is something new. We started this past Tuesday night and Patterson Hood [a contributor and musician] came and played an acoustic set and we got Susan Rebecca White [another contributor] and she came and read as an opening act. It worked like a charm. People loved it.
We did a contest on Facebook and asked people to tell us a story about art that they loved and we were going to give the tickets to whoever won. One of the guys who won, he told a story about how he and his wife had gone to see the Drive By Truckers and got drunk and ornery and on the way home he decided he had to get out. He threw himself out of the car. His girlfriend stopped the car and he realized, she's the one! He got back in the car and now they’re married and they have a little son. The one thing she didn’t tell him until they married was the fact she only stopped the car that night to shut the door. [laughs]
We’re assembling a little tribe of people who sort of feel the way we do. A lot of times people go through life and have these opinions about things and you start to feel like I’m the only one who feels this way. Truth is, when you turn those things loose, you realize you’re not the only one.
Do you know how to cook? Yes m’am.
What is your favorite thing to cook/eat? My favorite things to cook change all the time. I’ll get on a kick. Not long ago I read about poaching fish in olive oil and I started doing that all the time. In terms of the things I love to eat, a lot of it is like childhood comfort food, fried chicken and bisquits. I still have never been able to master fried chicken or bisquits. When I met my wife Stacy, not long after we start dating she made some bisquits for me and they tasted exactly like my mom's and I thought, I’m in love.
What is your favorite book? Absolom, Absolom by William Faulkner. It’s the first time I ever was taught it in a southern literature class by a guy still teaching over there, Dr. Hugh Ruppersburg, and it was the first time I’d ever experienced decent literature that really expressed the conflicted feelings that I had as a southerner in a really vivid way. It’s still an amazing book. I still read it from time to time. It takes you a little while – you have to sort of learn how to read Faulkner. I kind of had this realization hate even though it wasn’t written purely as a stream of consciousness, in a way it was. You get to hear all the voice inside someone’s head.
Who do you love the most in the world? My wife. Stacy Williams Shuker Reece. We got married in July.
What question has nobody ever asked you but you wanted to answer? I honestly can’t think of anything. At least in my adult life I’ve been pretty open about answering anything anyone wanted to ask.
Photo by Whitney Ott, Whitney Ott Photography