Special Section: The Good Life

Seventeenth century England was much taken by Sir Walter Raleigh's description of an American demi-Eden where it was forever either spring or summer. This balmy land of the blest, he said, lay on the 35th parallel of north latitude—in present-day North Carolina. Rallying to Raleigh, for whom North Carolina named its capital, Southerners have ever since believed in their hearts that their region is kindlier, lovelier and more conducive to the good life than any other patch of earth this side of paradise, and not without reason.

The concept of an idyllic South has, of course, been inflated and distorted by the...

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