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Three Not-So-Ordinary Joes

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Three Not-So-Ordinary Joes: A plantation newspaper, a printerís devil, an English wit,
and the founding of Southern literature

(Author)
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Format: Trade Paper with French Flaps, 224 pages
Pub Date: Spring 2018
Price: $23.95
ISBN: 978-1-58838-323-5
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They were three Joes ó Joseph Addison, Joseph Addison Turner, and Joel Chandler Harris ó whose lives curiously intersected in Civil War-era Georgia thanks to a slaveowner who was more interested in literature than in running his plantation.

Addison was a British literary giant who was admired by a planter in the American South; the planter named his son after the British writer-publisher and collected his books. Growing up, the young J. A. Turner read Addisonís books and his literary journal, The Spectator, and was inspired by them. Later, Turner tried and failed at publishing magazines, poems, books, and articles, all while halfheartedly running the plantation he had inherited.

When the Civil War broke out, Turner no longer had access to New York publishers but realized he could install his own printing press in a plantation outbuilding. So he did, and his journal, The Countryman, thus became the only newspaper ever published on a slaveholding plantation.

Then the third Joe showed up: Joel Chandler Harris (as a boy, he was called Joe), who became Turner's printerís devil (apprentice) on The Countryman.

Turnerís journal was widely read within the Confederacy. With often humorous copy, The Countryman celebrated Southern culture. The paper collapsed at the end of the Civil War, and Turner died a few years later.

Harris, however, had learned not only how to print but how to write. While working for Turner, he often joined Turnerís children at dusk in the plantationís slave cabins, listening to the fantastical animal stories the Negroes told. Young Harris recognized the talesí subversive theme of the downtrodden outwitting the powerful. He began publishing these stories in the voice of an elderly slave he called Uncle Remus. Later collected and published, the popular tales found a wide audience. They also directly influenced writers like Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling, and Beatrix Potter. Most importantly, Uncle Remus knocked New England off its perch as the focus of American belles-lettres. Joel Chandler Harris had thus fulfilled the dream of J. A. Turner to establish Southern literature.

Author Julie Williams noticed the links between her Joseph, Joe, and Joel and has cleverly crafted a small book that traces an extraordinary tale. Her fresh approach brings to life and returns us to consideration of the literary gifts of Joseph Addison, Joseph Addison Turner, and Joel Chandler Harris ó her ďthree not-so-ordinary Joes."