This Issue’s Inquisitor: Chuck Reece

By J.Ed. Marston, Peauxdunque Review Asst. Editor/Features Editor

For this issue, we have the honor of fielding questions from celebrity-guest inquisitor Chuck Reece. After many years in journalism and communications, Chuck and three partners launched The Bitter Southerner in 2013, building an online publication aimed at puncturing stereotypes of the South that has more than 100,000 readers a month. Chuck was editor-in-chief of The Bitter Southerner until 2020, and in 2021 Chuck and his wife Stacy are now launching a new publication and project—Salvation South. To quote from Chuck’s essay announcing the project, “Salvation South will be inspired by hope and healing and—most importantly—the desire to create a place on the web and a community of people where civil conversation can happen.” We got to know Chuck as the publisher of works by several Peauxdunquians. He also was the final-round judge of the creative non-fiction category of the 2018 Words and Music Writing Competition. Along the way, Chuck has become a friend, mentor, and fellow spirit.

Chuck Reece: At Salvation South, we’re trying to create civil conversations between our contributing writers and our readers on many tough issues that face the South, including ongoing efforts to achieve racial reconciliation. What is Peauxdunque’s approach to such issues?

Ask Peauxdunque: Well damn, my friend. Didn’t your mama tell you it isn’t polite to bring Hegel to the Improv?

[Peaudunque Review ed.: We’re sorry about that, Chuck. We think what A.P. means to say is we’re solidly for reconciliation and against racism.]

A.P.: Don’t rush me, editorial overlords. I was getting there. Obscure jokes about teleology aside, Peauxdunque Review is all about narrative, and narrative has drive. It goes somewhere—even if the rest of existence tends to grind on past all the punchlines and resolutions. It’s like Vonnegut said, “Every character has to want something, even if it’s only a drink of water.”

At Peauxdunque Review, our drive is to provide a space for writers from out-of-the-way places (and states of mind) to share their stories, poetry, and well-chosen words. In our own small way, we strive to celebrate and cultivate a rich chorus of voices writing from their own experiences. We don’t frame their various work as a particular conversation, but we often find that when people step into the space between writer and reader, when they lose themselves in a character or a stanza, when they honestly try to express something important and genuine or meet someone on the page who has made themselves naked in the attempt—when that happens, some of our perceived differences fall away in a vast realization that this “other” person is beautiful, broken, striving, struggling just like me. From what we can tell, Salvation South is driven by a similar recognition and passion, so count us allies tacking into the wind from a different angle.

As for your vision of reconciliation, we’d walk across the whole damn South for a drink of that water.

Chuck Reece: If Peauxdunque could be exactly where you envision it to be five years from now, what would it be achieving?

A.P.: I envision myself trying to explain that Hegel joke to the only other derelict in the drunk tank who’s kind enough to listen—and mostly failing.

As for Peauxdunque Review, I envision us continuing to spotlight out-of-the-way writers who are doing their best to express themselves in all their rye and aching humanity. And, maybe that will give some of them the chance to join the greater conversation.

J.Ed. Marston writes stories about people fumbling to be heroic in cloudy situations. His fiction, poetry, and non-fiction have been published in BayouThe Double DealerUrban LandWired magazine’s blog, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, among others. Marston serves on the Board of the Southern Lit Alliance and on the planning committee for the Conference on Southern Literature. Marston is a graduate of Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, where he earned a BA with a triple major in English, writing, and theater. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee.