Literary Landmarks of Savannah

Things to Do, Travel Tips — By Lauren Quinn on April 30, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Azalea-perfumed streets lined with wrought-iron balconies and Spanish-moss-draped trees: it’s easy to see how Savannah has captured the hearts—and words—of writers. And once you spend a little time in the city, it’s easy to see how Savannah’s been captured by literature. From tours to historical homes to ubiquitous postcards of a certain famous statue, Savannah’s literary landmarks reveal the love story between the city and its writers.

Even non-readers lust to make a stop at the Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous by Savannah’s most famous novel and film, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. The star of the show here, though, isn’t Berendt, but poet, writer and critic Conrad Aiken. The Pulitzer Prize winner and native to Savannah is buried in the cemetery; in Berendt’s novel, main characters famously sip martinis on Aiken’s bench gravestone. To (respectfully) reenact the scene, head to the graves at Lot #78H. Notoriety aside, Bonaventure Cemetery is one of Savannah’s most beautiful sights, complete with obelisks, crumbling tombstones, shrubs and trees that whisper of the city’s past.

Of course, if you want to lay your eyes on the famous Bird Girl statue, you’ll have to head to the Telfair Museum of Art, where the statue was moved to preserve the sanctuary of the cemetery.

To experience both the setting of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, as well as some important Savannah history, take a tour of the Mercer-Williams House. The house was the murder setting of the novel, which was based upon true events. It is also beautifully restored, bursting with antiques and full of local history.

But perhaps chief of all Savannah’s literary landmarks is the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home. The first home of the haunting Southern writer, the house reveals the humble origins of one of America’s best short story writers who unflinchingly exposed the Southern psyche with piercing wit and exceptional craft. The house often hosts readings and literary events, and admission is free.