“Dixie Zen” Article Discussion

This article by Sam Anderson is an exercise in vivid descriptions. His opening line is evocative: “People often compare the summer heat of Louisiana to being locked in a sauna for three months.” With just a few words, Anderson has set a tone for the rest of the work.

I think this piece is important for people wanting to write personal narratives or long-form stories. There has to be such an absolute commitment to the subject, to find stories and moments that will capture a reader.

Additionally, this work is a piece of differentiation. What makes tubing in Louisiana a quasi-religious experience that simply cannot be replicated by the rest of the country is deftly explored by Anderson: “In Oregon or Nebraska, tubing is just an incidentally wet version of a stroll in the woods, the spiritual equivalent of a hundred other outdoor leisure activities. In the South, it represents one of the only possible escapes from a greenhouse climate threatening to replace human life with ferns. Southerners are forced to tube.”

With these points in mind, here are some discussion starters and questions.

  1. Find your favorite line of description in the work. Why does it speak to you?
  2. Were there any moments were you thought a detail was extraneous? Were there moments where the detail at first seemed unnecessary, but you appreciated as you read further?
  3. When were you first hooked on the story? Did it not hook you? Why or why not?
  4. Do you have an activity that inspires the same feeling in you that tubing does it Anderson? Take a moment to write it down.

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