Down From the Mountain

Did you ever get bored in church as a kid? Did you hide comic books or crossword puzzles in your Bible case to combat the boredom of a stale sermon? Well, they don’t have that problem at the church Dennis Covington used to go to.

While writing his book Salvation on Sand Mountain (Viking-Penguin, 1996; see review in March-April 1996), Dennis Covington attended a church where members of the congregation drink strychnine from mason jars and handle poisonous snakes.

In person, Covington does not come across as the sort of guy who would handle lethal objects by choice. But he’s no stranger to danger. Covington made 12 trips to El Salvador as a journalist, often working amid intense crossfire during the war. Now back in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, the soft-spoken college instructor and author is one of the most exciting new voices in Southern writing. His prose is lyrical, compassionate, and full of the musicality that defines Southern speech and experience.

Covington is currently busy at work on two new projects. With his wife, Vicki, he is co-writing a book describing their well- drilling trip to Belize this summer. Dennis is also working on a new book for Viking-Penguin.

While on tour promoting Salvation on Sand Mountain (which was a finalist for the National Book Award), Covington took time out from his hectic schedule to speak with us about writing, faith, and worship after snake-handling. Staff members Brett Grainger and Rose Marie Berger interviewed Covington in the back room of a Washington, D.C. bookstore in April. —The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1996
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