George Singleton
Flea Markets and Rural Life Fodder for South Carolina Writer

audio Listen to a profile of George Singleton by NPR's David Molpus.

Aug. 16, 2001 George Singleton writes about the rural South without sentimentality or stereotype but with plenty of sharp-witted humor. Singleton says he's just telling stories -- not trying to "write southern."

George Singleton
George Singleton spent several months growing his hair long and collecting beer cans for this send-up of Christmas "family" photos.
Photo courtesy George Singleton

"Grits never show up in my stories," he tells NPR's David Molpus on Morning Edition. "Pork rinds might, not grits. Guns, they don't show up a whole lot. Rebel flags don't unless I'm kind of making fun of them ... I'll probably get a cross burned on my lawn for saying that."

Singleton is a raconteur of trends, counter-trends, obsessions and odd characters in his adopted state of South Carolina. His short stories have appeared in Playboy, The Atlantic and other magazines, and his first collection is just out, in a book titled These People Are Us.

His hands are usually occupied with cigarettes and beer -- the lubricants to his story-telling -- and he finds all the raw material he needs right at his doorstep in Dacusville, S.C.

"This is the country, in South Carolina. There is no garbage collector in my area ... there's no cable TV this far out. Sometimes I see pterodactyls flying overhead. I think my closest neighbor owns some slaves. Down the road is a house full of Arena Football League players, that's how far from civilization I live." -- from the short story, How I Met My Second Wife

Singleton writes about people who still work with their hands. One character thinks the best solution to depression is cleaning carburetors. And romance emerges from the most unexpected places, such as a trip to the Jiffy Lube.

Examining what others have discarded -- whether it's things, people or places -- is a habit for Singleton, and it brings him to the Pickens County Flea Market most Wednesdays. He's looking for inspiration amid the lava lamps, pottery pieces, knives and alleged antiques. "One guy today said, 'It's hot, isn't it?' I said, 'Yes.' He said, 'I might have to dig a hole and sit in it for three months.' ... I'm sure that'll show up (in my writing) somewhere."

George Singleton at the flea market
George Singleton, right, watches sellers play their wares at the Pickens County Flea Market.
Photo: David Molpus, NPR

Singleton, who is in his early 40s, has been living in rural South Carolina since early childhood. But "civilization" is encroaching on his territory: Upscale houses are being built next door to blue-collar bungalows and mobile home parks.

The newest arrivals aren't as interesting to Singleton as the long-time residents -- the textile workers, mechanics and farmers. He says he'd rather write about "the guy's who's sad because his chickens looked up in the rain and all died in the field and then he tried to sell them."

Other Resources

Read Show-and-Tell, a short story by Singleton in The Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2001.

Read How to Spot Fugitives, a Singleton column published in Creative Loafing, June 26, 1999.