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Wallace remarked in an interview that when he learned about the book being made into a film, “I could not have been happier – or more surprised. I thought the narrative was off the Burton beaten path, and it was, but he saw the magic in it. For me, personally and professionally, it was a great and very lucky event, because my books are small, quiet and literary, and therefore don’t have a wide readership.”4 It was nominated for both Golden Globes and Oscars. Then, in 2013, it was made into a Broadway musical, the script written, again, by John August, with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa. It ran for over a hundred shows with premieres in cities like New York, Sydney, Munich, and London in late 2017. Wallace was born in Birmingham, Alabama. He attended Emory University and finished his degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although most of his life has been in the South, he did work in Japan for a number of years for a trading company. Returning to Chapel Hill, he was employed as an illustrator, designing such things as refrigerator magnets. Eventually, though, his writing became his main focus and he took a job at UNC as a creative writing instructor. At first glance – other than the setting and the obvious accents in the film – Big Fish seems to be only tangentially Southern, but at heart, it embodies true Southern culture, for it is about the oral tradition of storytelling. Going back to the humorists of the Old Southwest – authors such as Augustus Longstreet, Thomas Bangs Thorpe, and George Washington Harris – the South has been known for its tellers of tall tales and the creation of legendary heroes like Davy Crockett. Between about 1830 and “ A man tells his stories 1860, American readers (mostly men) craved the larger than so many times that he life characters these authors created, stories that showed men facing the expanding frontier with courage and grit, commitbecomes the stories. ting manly, brave acts that were exaggerated with each telling They live on after him, until the line blurred between reality and fiction. Mark Twain and in that way he arose out of this literary trend, a writer who knew the value of a good tall tale. He once said that a humorous story “may be becomes immortal. spun out to great length, and may wander around as much as it —John August, pleases, and arrive nowhere in particular.” In his introduction Big Fish screenplay to The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner chimed in on the importance of storytelling in Southern literature and life when he said, “We need to talk, to tell, since oratory is our heritage.” Finally, Allan Tate identified the “traditional Southern mode of discourse” to be “somebody at the other end silently listening.”5 In addition, the South has always loved its larger-than-life characters, both real and fictional. Just in the twentieth century, the South gave us Bear Bryant, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, and Huey P. Long, to name only a few such historical characters. Wallace’s Edward Bloom


Jason Erik Lundberg, “Interview: Daniel Wallace,” strangehorizons. com, 11 Oct. 2004: web; subsequently cited parenthetically.


Mark Twain, How to Tell a Story and Other Essays, 1897 (American Publishing Company, 1901); William Faulkner: Essays, Speeches and Public Lectures, ed. James B. Meriwether, 2004 (Chatto & Windus, 1967) 292; Allen Tate, “A Southern Mode of the Imagination,” Studies in American Culture, edited by Joseph K. Kwiat and Mary C. Turpie (University of Minnesota Press, 1960) 100–101. For more on the tall tale’s function and meaning in literature, see Carolyn S. Brown, The Tall Tale in American Folklore and Literature (U of Tennessee Press, 1987) 9–39.

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.