Our Views: An ovation for Gaines

Using a wheelchair and advanced in age, Louisiana novelist Ernest J. Gaines wasn’t able to stand at the annual Gathering of Writers and Readers in St. Francisville. But everyone else was on their feet for a sustained ovation as organizers recognized Gaines for his outstanding service to world literature.

Last year, in a nod toward his work on such novels as “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and “A Gathering of Old Men,” Gaines received the National Medal of the Arts at the White House.

Olivia Pass, chair of the Gathering of Writers and Readers, said last year’s White House honor was a powerful reminder that Gaines, a sharecropper’s son from Pointe Coupee Parish, should be celebrated locally, too.

Each year, A Gathering of Writers and Readers connects area literary fans with authors who have regional ties. Gaines wasn’t scheduled to speak at this year’s symposium, but he offered a few words after the crowd finished its lengthy round of applause. He reminded younger writers at the event that creating new literature is especially important in an increasingly technological society.

“We need you all out there to fight against a sterile, synthetic, robotic world,” Gaines said.

The South’s next generation of writers couldn’t have a better role model than Ernest Gaines.

The long line of admirers buying Gaines’ books at the Gathering of Writers and Readers suggested that Gaines will continue to exert influence where it matters most — in the legions of fans who meet him on the page.