Young was born on October 11, 1881, in Como. He has been described as one of the most cosmopolitan and worldly of Mississippi’s major literary figures. Over the course of his life until January 6, 1963, Young also became a poet, essayist, dramatist, painter, professor and Broadway critic. He is buried in Como’s Friendship Cemetery.
The Como native retained his self-described “Southern-ness,” but Young ultimately landed in Manhattan where he wrote drama criticism for The New York Times and The New Republic. He authored four successful novels between 1926 and 1934 set in Mississippi and with inspiration from his hometown of Como: Heaven Trees, The Torches Flare, River House and his most popular book of fiction, So Red The Rose. The clash of industrialism, exemplified by the North, versus the Southern agrarian life and economy was a frequent theme of both Young’s fiction and non-fiction.
So Red The Rose deals with the fortunes of the McGehee family during the Civil War. The links to Como locales both past and present are unmistakable in the novel. Southern Literary Trail Director William Gantt of Birmingham states, “Como, Stark Young and his work are excellent examples of the writers, places and enduring American fiction that the Trail seeks to honor.”
Since the founding of the Southern Literary Trail in 2009, Como is only the third community to be added to the Trail by vote of its governing board.
Young’s contributions to global literature were also significant. In 1938, he translated Anton Chekhov’s Russian play The Sea Gull for a Broadway production that starred his friends Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine. He also translated Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and Uncle Vanya into English. Even as he aged, Young actively traveled the world to deliver lectures about theater and literature.
In March 2013, the Emily J. Pointer Library in Como launched its first annual tribute to Stark Young with the dedication of a Literary Landmarks marker in his honor during a ceremony on the grounds of the library. Como librarian Alice Pierotti says, “We wanted to light a literary fire under the town and it turns out that’s exactly what we did.”
The success of the annual tribute to Young in the Mississippi town proved to be a major factor in Como’s addition to the Southern Literary Trail, a project that is principally supported by state branches of the National Endowment for the Humanities in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. More information is available at the Trail’s website, http://www.southernliterarytrail.org.