Today’s review is a guest post written by former staff-member & YA author Stephanie Thompson.
* * *
You won’t find Rick Bragg’s pieces in history textbooks, social studies syllabi, or even any English class curriculums, but that’s a pea-pickin’ shame in my opinion. The former New York Times award-winning journalist, writer, essayist, social commentator, University of Alabama professor and yarn-spinner deserves a place in all of the above.
His latest nonfiction book, My Southern Journey, is an anthology of the essays he’s been writing for Southern Living Magazine and various other periodicals for the past decade, give or take. For those of us who are diehard fans, it’s a little disappointing not to have something new to guffaw over, but it is convenient to have all that wisdom in one volume.
And that’s the thing that makes Bragg’s pieces accessible to all audiences: it’s uncommon wisdom disguised as humor and wit, with a heaping dash of Southern absurdity and hilarity. Much of the time it’s dry yet polite, it touches on sometimes difficult subjects, but it’s appropriate for all ages.
Take, for instance, the following exchange in which Bragg discusses his aging mother’s new status as a crazy cat lady:
They named the smoke gray cat Stinky, because it was.
“We thought it was a boy,” said my brother Mark.
But along came a raggedy stray tomcat my mother named Will.
“He was a travelin’ man,” Mark said.
Will begot, with Stinky, four kittens: Little Will, Shorty, Little Stinky, and Elvira. “Elvira?” I asked. “I liked the song,” Mark said.
Will, his work done, hit the highway. Another stray, Big Spooky, moved in. Before Stinky—who was now referred to as Big Stinky—could be caught and fixed, Big Stinky delivered into this world a second litter: Little Spooky, Vincent Price, and Stephen King.
“I been watchin’ spooky movies,” Mark said.
A fourth kitten had Siamese markings.
“Possum Willy,” my mother said, “because he looks like a…”
“I got it,” I said.
Absurd, yes. Hilarious, pretty much. Quintessentially Southern, absolutely.
My Southern Journey is in stores (print & digital) now. It should come with a glass of sweet tea and a bag of pork rinds.
Here is the official synopsis:
From celebrated New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Rick Bragg, comes a poignant and wryly funny collection of essays on life in the south.
Keenly observed and written with his insightful and deadpan sense of humor, he explores enduring Southern truths about home, place, spirit, table, and the regions’ varied geographies, including his native Alabama, Cajun country, and the Gulf Coast. Everything is explored, from regional obsessions from college football and fishing, to mayonnaise and spoonbread, to the simple beauty of a fish on the hook.
Collected from over a decade of his writing, with many never-before-published essays written specifically for this edition, My Southern Journey is an entertaining and engaging read, especially for Southerners (or feel Southern at heart) and anyone who appreciates great writing.