The most recent of such books was, ironically, The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature published in April of this year by the University of Georgia Press. I use the word "ironically" because, perhaps for the first time, a book has been produced from online content rather than the other way around, the New Georgia Encyclopedia being an online resource rather than something in print.
As the book jacket says, "Georgia has played a formative role in the writing of America." This state has produced such essential writers as Conrad Aiken, Erskine Caldwell, James Dickey, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Joel Chandler Harris, and Alice Walker, and this volume celebrates this impressive array of 19th- and 20th-century authors. For someone like myself who deals intimately with these writers, this compendium is a true godsend. The book describes itself thus:
This volume contains biographical and critical discussions of Georgia writers from the nineteenth century to the present as well as other information pertinent to Georgia literature. Organized in alphabetical order by author, the entries discuss each author's life and work, contributions to Georgia history and culture, and relevance to wider currents in regional and national literature. Lists of recommended readings supplement most entries.The person responsible for this tremendous resource is Hugh Ruppersburg, the editor. Hugh is Professor of English and Senior Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia. A former head of the UGA English department, he is the author or editor of many books, including After O'Connor and Georgia Voices, a three-volume anthology of Georgia's fiction, nonfiction, and poetry (all of which are published by UGA Press).
Especially important Georgia books have their own entries: works of social significance such as Lillian Smith's Strange Fruit, international publishing sensations like Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, and crowning artistic achievements including Jean Toomer's Cane. The literary culture of the state is also covered, with information on the Georgia Review and other journals; the Georgia Center for the Book, which promotes authors and reading; and the Townsend Prize, given in recognition of the year's best fiction.
Dr. Ruppersburg has done an immeasurable amount for Georgia literature, not only in the anthologies he has edited, but also as a teacher of Georgia literature to countless students at UGA. This past May his endeavors were recognized when Gov. Sonny Perdue presented him with a Governor's Award in the Humanities for his contributions to the humanities in this state.
So, from now on, I will be browsing the pages of the NGE's Companion to Georgia Literature to check my facts and learn new ones. Any mistakes I may make will be purely my own and cannot be attributed to this fine new volume.
As a literary professional, let me say a very big "thank you" to those who made this volume possible. You have made my job an awful lot easier...and I'm very grateful.