Ed Winstead at Guernica:
Before I ever saw or heard a recording of Robert Penn Warren, I had imagined, based solely on having read his award-winning novel of shifty Louisiana political types when I was pretty young, that he had a very distinct accent. The kind of accent belonging to someone who, when describing a favorite friend or colleague to a third party, might settle on the word august. The sort of person who laughs hearty baritone laughs and is always reaching deep into a jacket pocket for their pipe, less to puff on than to have something to gesture with while using the word august. Warren, who in 1947 won the Pulitzer Prize for All The King’s Men, was born in Guthrie, Kentucky, in April of 1905. And he certainly did have an accent, though I discovered on hearing a recording of him (he was reciting some of his poetry) that its inflexions and cadences didn’t jibe at all with what I’d imagined. A day or two after first hearing his voice, the memory of it began to revert to my impressionistic substitute. Shortly thereafter it was all that was left.
I have never had much of an accent myself and am often asked, when it’s discovered that I’m Southern and come from a town in central North Carolina, why that is. I say that I don’t know because I don’t.