When T.S. Stribling’s novel The Store was published in 1932, it wasn’t the first time residents of a town were upset to see their town unfavorably depicted in print. (Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel, and its reception by the residents of Asheville, N.C., comes to mind).
Set in Florence, Ala., The Store is the second installment of a trilogy that traces the lives of a family after the Civil War and through post-Reconstruction years. The books explore social, economic and political injustices that existed in the South, and discuss taboo subjects such as race relations.
The book's publication caused an uproar among the citizens of Florence; they threatened a libel suit soon after the book appeared. Stribling was saddened and offered his apologies but never denied using the town’s citizens as character models. It was said the town library refused to shelf the book and citizens were forced to join book clubs to obtain a copy, or drive across the river to check it out from the Sheffield library.
The Store received rave reviews in the U.S., but like the residents of Florence, many readers in the South were not happy. Today, I believe the novel has been largely forgotten.
It would be more than thirty years before he would return to the town that was once his home. He was invited and accepted a speaking engagement at the University of North Alabama in 1965. Afterward, his novels became required reading for UNA freshman English classes.
I “rediscovered” Stribling a few days ago as I was searching for previous Pulitzer Prize for Literature winners. After reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (the 2014 Pulitzer recipient), I thought it might be neat to see how many previous winners books I’ve read.
And there on the list was Stribling’s 1932 book. I read it a long time ago – in the early 1970s -- and have mostly forgotten the story. I plan to read it again soon.
Stribling was born in Clifton, Tenn., in 1891 and graduated from Florence Normal School (now the University of North Alabama) in 1902. He lived and worked in Florence for a time, but his career took him to many other locales, During the final months of his life, when he was in declining health, he and his wife moved back to Florence, where he died on July 8, 1965.
To read more about the town’s reaction to Stribling’s novel, see here and
If you want to see how many Pulitzer winning novels you’ve read, there's a list
here. I have read 14 and saw the movie of 7 others. There are several here I am adding to my reading list.