I don’t know who first used the term Grit Lit, but I like to think it was Barry Hannah, a great grit-lit novelist and short story writer who used the term in reference to Larry Brown, another great novelist and short story writer. Both Hannah and Brown lived in Oxford, Mississippi, and both died young. I met Hannah once at a party in Oxford, and I corresponded with Brown and read all their books. I like to think I knew them well; knew they were just like the hardscrabble characters they wrote about. To my recollection, Hannah called Brown the king of grit lit. I can’t find any evidence of that. Maybe I made it up.
Anyway, the term refers to literature about the rough South, about hard-drinking, cussing, spit-in-your-eye Southerners. Best known grit lit writers are Harry Crews, Cormac McCarthy, Tom Franklin, Dorothy Allison, and of course Hannah and Brown. Their predecessors are Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner. These are the writers who most heavily influenced me when I was starting out as a writer—along with Jack Butler, whose writing spans many genres. When we were publishing Mississippi Arts & Letters, Butler’s novel Ju Jitsu for Christ and his short story collection Hawk Gumbo and Other Stories were new and exciting. Hawk Gumbo is sadly out of print now, but Ju Jitsu has recently been re-released. Mud Flat Press published Butler’s non-fiction work Practicing Zen Without a License.
It was poet and literary critic Larry Johnson who first introduced me to the works of Butler and McCarthy and Brown. Thanks, Larry.
I highly recommend that you read these grit lit masters.