From the best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All Over but the Shoutin' and The Best Cook in the World, a collection of irresistible columns from Southern Living and Garden & Gun
Celebrated author and newspaper columnist Rick Bragg brings us an ode to the stories and history of the Deep South, filled with "eclectic nuggets about places and people he knows well" (USA Today) and written with honesty, wit, and deep affection.
A collection of wide-ranging and endearingly personal columns--from Bragg's love of Tupperware (his mother preferred margarine tubs and thought Tupperware was "just showing off") to the decline of country music, from the legacy of Harper Lee to the metamorphosis of the pickup truck to the best way to kill fire ants--Where I Come From is a book that will be treasured by fans old and new.
Bragg, a native of Calhoun County, Alabama, calls these books the proudest examples of his writing life, what historians and critics have described as heart-breaking anthems of people usually written about only in fiction or cliches. They chronicle the lives of his family cotton pickers, mill workers, whiskey makers, long sufferers, and fist fighters. Bragg, who has written for the numerous magazines, ranging from Sports Illustrated to Food & Wine, was a newspaper writer for two decades, covering high school football for the Jacksonville News, and militant Islamic fundamentalism for The New York Times.
He has won more than 50 significant writing awards, in books and journalism, including, twice, the American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Award. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University in 1993, and is, truthfully, still a freshman at Jacksonville State University. Bragg is currently Professor of Writing in the Journalism Department at the University of Alabama, and lives in Tuscaloosa with his wife, Dianne, a doctoral student there, and his stepson, Jake. His only real hobby is fishing, but he is the worst fisherman in his family line.
“The stories in this collection are of the South’s gentler, easier nature. It is a litany of great talkers, blue-green waters, deep casseroles, kitchen-sink permanents, lying fishermen, haunted mansions, and dogs that never die, things that make this place more than a dotted line on a map or a long-ago failed rebellion, even if only in some cold-weather dream.”
Who better to explain what this book is about than the author himself?! Those two lines are the perfect description of what you’ll find in this collection of essays and magazine columns Rick wrote over the course of many years. I’ve never read Rick Bragg before, but he endeared himself to me right from the start. I wanted to make a jug of sweet tea, order a couple of po’ boys to go, knock on his door, give him a big hug, and (if that didn’t give him the creeps, crazy ole’ stalker lady!), sit down on his porch and beg for more stories like these! Unfortunately, I live in the North hundreds of miles away, don’t know where to get a decent po’ boy, and hugs are frowned upon right now. I’ll have to wait for another day and pick up more of his writing instead. You don’t have to be a southern gal or guy to enjoy these – just someone who loves a decent down-to-earth soul.
“Maybe they are just American stories, and this just happens to be where I come from. I am a Southern writer, by birth. My Aunt Jo said so.”
All of the pieces included in this collection are short and sweet: bite-sized chocolates to unwrap and munch on between doing your chores. I’m so glad I read these before Christmas – it helped lighten the tone and ease my spirit. My favorite stories were the ones that involved food (love it!), fishing (umm, without the worms, thank you), and New Orleans (never been there). Rick’s relatives make appearances, as do his dogs, a mule, Santa Claus, and the Goat Man (you have to read it yourself to find out!) It’s his pride of who he is and where he comes from that shines through in each and every anecdote. This was truly a humorous and heart-warming read.
Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:
“I love fishing, but sometimes, if I would admit it, I love more the idea of fishing, of being on the water or just at the lip of the pond, and the glide of a pelican, or the clean smell, upwind of the outboard motor.”
“I will write about the wrongdoers, because sometimes doing right is just too damn hard, and the sorry drunks, and the women who love them anyway. I will write about mommas, not somebody’s Big Daddy. I will write about snuff, not caviar.”
“I am not a squeamish man, mostly. The only thing that terrifies me still is what they call, ominously, Black Friday. It sounds like something from the Dark Ages, from the plague years. I’ve never actually experienced one, but I’ve heard the awful stories.”
“A Southern man, knifeless, was pitiful. Men without knives were like men who rode around without a jack, or a spare tire, just generally unprepared for life. A man without a knife could not fish, hunt, or work at any respectable employment. I am a writer, which is one step up from helpless, but I have always had a pocketknife. I believe, foolishly, it holds me close to my people.”
“The roads have been my balm, and in many ways my education. It may be that I am just romantic, and cannot recall the potholes at all. That does not mean I will stop traveling anytime soon.”
’I do not need a statue or flag to know that I am Southern. I can taste it in the food, feel it in my heart, and hear it in the language of my kin.’
This is a collection of Bragg’s stories written for various publications throughout his years, stories ’of the South’s gentler, easier nature. It was a litany of great talkers, blue-green waters, deep casseroles, kitchen-sink permanents, lying fishermen, haunted mansions, and dogs that never die, things that make this place more than a dotted line on a map or a long-ago failed rebellion even if only in some cold-weather dream.’
He wanders through the past, through Alabama, Florida, Savannah, New Orleans, through attempts to get from Birmingham to Hawaii for a speaking engagement. Often his stories focus on food, occasionally on the eccentricities of living in the South, ghosts, fishing, the strangeness of watching it snow in Florida, pickups and tupperware - ’the Wedgewood of the South, and his time spent with Jerry Lee Lewis to write his Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story. He also writes, of course, about his Momma, the loss of his dog, and the ever changing Southern landscape.
’Sometime, back in the times of our grandfathers, these mountains had been old-growth hardwoods and towering pines, but none of us could remember a time when the South looked like that. Old men talked of an age when the great trees towered into the clouds and the forest floor was dark and smooth and clean, but these mountains had been clear-cut generations before, creating a tangled mess of skinny trees fighting for the light, with undergrowth and saw briars strung between them like razor wire.’
Our memories are tied with so many moments, and the best of those are typically fond moments filled with nostalgia. For Bragg, revisiting those moments is filled with a love of family, friends, and food, while at the same time acknowledging the imperfections, the ugly side of the South - racism - that still exists. Although this is not the focus of his stories he doesn’t dismiss it, or try to sugarcoat it. He acknowledges its existence while focusing on what he loves most about this place where he came from.
’No one has given me a pep talk for a long time, or even passed me a cup of Gatorade, though I am often thirsty. I am pretty sure, if I turn on ESPN, I will not be on the highlight reel, unless they have one for tackling biscuits and gravy.’
The love he has for his family, these places, his work - storytelling - is manifest in every page, every word. Expressed through a love that is palpable, it is a gift to all.
Five big stars for the humor, the pathos, the nostalgia, and the recognition of what it means to be a southerner, no matter where you're from. Rick Bragg is always a sure winner with me. Note: He's right about the Tupperware. You know there's good eating ahead when you see it come in the door.
What a gem of a story collection from Rick Bragg!!! He has written a plethora of stories for Southern Living magazine and Garden & Gun and between these pages you will be delighted with nostalgia from what he calls "his south". He introduces the reader to his Aunt Jo in the beginning and right away you know this collection of stories is going to be written from the heart and soul of a person who knows and lives southern heritage. She was not the veranda South, the cotillion South, only the South I write about most, the one a person can love without qualification or reservation, without having to explain your damn self. She was not the South of meanness and small-mindedness, not the political South that yearns to turn back time. Like most southerners in old age, she was perhaps most comfortable in the past, but not in a search for some doomed ideal. She opened her photo albums and drifted back in time, touching on the people she loved like a child tapping a picket fence with a stick.
He is the real deal and his family members get most of the press time in his writings. Bragg is heartfelt and natural when writing about his beloved south. He grew up in Alabama but has lived in New Orleans and several cities in Florida. The realistic but nostalgic feeling you get while reading these vignettes, at least for me, brings you back to the familiarity of home.
He will make you laugh and cry and nod your head in agreement! This southern girl could find a lot of my own experiences and family members in these pages. He brought me back to my childhood dogs and reminded me of my daddy's biscuits and gravy. In my house there was always a pot of soup beans on the stove and some fried chicken livers and onions. Food is most definitely a highlight and a central commodity in the South.
There are so many stories to like, but I have to mention The Point of a Good Knife as a favorite. He must have written this about my dad! This story was about the importance of a good, solid, sharp knife to a southern man who never left home without it. He could reach down into his pant pockets and grab it for whatever he needed it for. And many times, my dad was able to fix whatever needed mending because he carried a pocketknife. A Southern man, knifeless, was pitiful. Men without knives were like men who rode around without a jack, or a spare tire, just generally unprepared for life.
Even if you're not a southerner, you can read these stories and know enough about the South that you'll get it. If you're a southerner through and through, you'll definitely find some familiar territory here and will enjoy every minute!
Where I Come From: Stories of the Deep South by Rick Bragg is a collection of 80 plus short stories, many of which have been published as columns in Southern Living and Garden and Gun magazines. Bragg says he will continue to write in Southern Living about Momma, mudholes, tides, and Tupperware until the magazine raises it standards.
"The stories in this collection are of the South’s gentler, easier nature. It is a litany of great talkers, blue-green waters, deep casseroles, kitchen-sink permanents, lying fishermen, haunted mansions, and dogs that never die, things that make this place more than a dotted line on a map or a long-ago failed rebellion, even if only in some cold-weather dream."
Each story is an endearing gem that will bring a smile to your face, tug at your heartstrings or make you laugh out loud. His descriptions are spot on. For example, pickup trucks are referred to as “The Chariots of My People” and Tupperware is called “The Wedgwood [crystal] of The South”. I had tears running down my face as I read about his pain after eating Nashville Hot Chicken that he was certain had been doused in ghost pepper and kerosene. He believes young people think George Strait is a land bridge between Russia and Alaska. At one point he describes his hair as “straight as a Lutheran with the consistency of a spiderweb.”
These tales remind us of all the great storytellers we know and make us believe that if it’s not the truth, it oughta be.
Rick Bragg says he “will write and write as long as somebody, anybody, wants me to, till we remind one more heartbroken ol’ boy of his grandfather, or educate one more pampered Yankee on the people of the pines.” Thank you, Rick, I long to hear more. For as you so aptly state “nostalgia is our sanctuary in sorry times.”
5-Stars. This book will make an excellent gift. It is truly a keeper. Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House for my Advanced Reader Copy. The publication date was October 27, 2020. Be sure to put it on your To Be Read List.
Where I Come From: Stories from the Deep South by Rick Bragg is a delightful anthology of journal articles that Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Rick Bragg wrote over the years for Southern Living and Garden & Gun. This beautiful man is the heart of the South and he can bring everything that is intrinsic to this enchanting and magical part of the United States to life. One just wants to sit on the front porch and sip sweet tea as we listen to his wonderful stories about surviving in Appalachia because of the love of his mother and his grandmother, Ava. Hang on as we navigate through the enchanting deep South of Rick Bragg as he takes us through life in Appalachia and other parts of the South. I think one of my favorite parts was his tribute to Pat Conroy and Nelle Harper Lee in the section of the book, We Will Never See Their Like Again.
Having lived my life in the western part of the United States, I was enthralled with the American South. Many, many years ago I picked up a beautiful book, The Prince of Tides, and my heart stopped, as I was entranced with the story that Pat Conroy was relating, especially the magnificent descriptions of the beautiful sunsets over the barrier islands of South Carolina. It was at that point that I fell in love with the south, specifically the coastal region of South Carolina . . . and I knew that some day that I would spend a lot of time in that beautiful part of the country, and it has not disappointed. Once we can travel again, the Carolinas will be once again at the beginning of my bucket list, as my favorite southern cities will always be Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia.
"Pat Conroy died on the edge of spring. I won't try to add anything to the gilded language said over him; those who have read him know of the elegance there. I just know he was different from others at the top of this craft, different in his generosity. He was a champion, even for those who pretended not to need one. As he left I knew I was now only the second most popular writer in our home; The Water is Wide is my mother's favorite book. Because of him we see the good in Santini, and knew that any man, no matter how wounded or damaged, can be a prince of tides. We will miss the words he had still to write."
"I do not need a statue or a flag to know that I am Southern. I can taste it in the food, feel it in my heart, and hear it in the language of my kin."
I've been a fan of Mr. Bragg since I read "All Over But the Shouting" years ago. His writing is very approachable and conversational. It is as if you were sitting at the local bar having a drink then the stranger next to you begins reminiscing. The stories he shares are not unusual but harken to the consistency of human experiences that evoke thoughts of your own similar tales of childhood and adulthood. Though I am not a true Southerner, I can appreciate his stories for the humanity they convey.
Inside the covers are a diverse number of short tales of life experiences in rural Alabama. We hear about stray dogs that become beloved pets. Tales of fishing (or at least an effort) in becoming a contributor to the family meals, while typically being in last place. Trucks as essential extension and integral contribution as part of the southern life. There is plenty of opportunity to sink your toes in the rich soil that grows many crops for American consumption. Additionally, no story is complete without incorporating this regions significance in sitting at the tale end of Appalachia without tales of wildlife encounters.
This is a very rich compilation of stories that shouldn't be missed. A salute to Rick Braggs continued success, his writing is certainly worth the time.
Excuse me while I go cook up some grits and book my trip to somewhere that laughs at the thought of snow and ice. This is an ode to the true Southern spirit and the topics range from old hound dogs to Rick's mother to delicious Southern dishes to Jerry Lee Lewis, and Santa Claus. There is something here for everyone and I was personally charmed the most by his deep love for his mama. I also found the chapter on the Jubilee to be fascinating. Want to go somewhere warmer or just appreciate your Southern locale? This is the book for you.
Thank you to Knopf Doubleday and NetGalley for a DRC in exchange for an honest review.
I really like Rick Bragg's writing-this was a settle in with a glass of sweet tea kind of read. His love for the South, especially Alabama, the food and his people shines through these stories. You had me with the picture on the cover!
Rick Bragg's book of his best columns from the magazines, Southern Living and Garden and Gun, was a joy to read. I suppose it was time for me to read a book written by a white male living in Alabama who is a proud Southerner. After all, I have been reading about many other diverse identities.
Bragg writes humorously about a whole range of subjects, all very interesting. And when I say humorously, I mean that I burst out laughing at several places in the book. Here is how he describes giving gifts to his hard to please mother, whom he calls Momma:
"I got her a classic, two-tone blue 1956 Chevrolet. She used it as a greenhouse. I got her a house. It had too many light bulbs... I got her false teeth. She spit them out in the weeds, just outside Pell City, Alabama."
His descriptions of food seriously made me hungry. I had to stop reading and go get something to eat. His descriptions of Po Boy sandwiches made my mouth water.
For years, my husband has been asking me to travel to New Orleans, a city I have had no real interest in. Well now, after reading about Bragg's experiences there, all of a sudden I would like to visit New Orleans.
These are just some of my impressions. Bragg is a talented writer. His love of home, family and southern living pours through in his writing, whether it be about fishing, church, country music, pickup trucks or pocket knives. He writes with intelligence and warmth.
I love Bragg's writing. We were both born in hill country - about 60 miles apart. I never met him but some of my relatives knew him and his family. I recognize the people he writes about; some of them are probably my relatives. I recognize the songs, the food, the hunting, the trouble-making of others. Part of me feels sad; I wish my parents were still alive to read this. I wish my cousin, the librarian, who stayed in the area was alive to read this. There are few people I know who "feel" the way he does. The few relatives I have who still live around there would not read his work. But the important part is that he writes truth. He writes about the folks in the Deep South and those of us who have left but still have fond memories. Both Bragg and I know that the area we grew up in is poor. We know that the education is poor, the health care is poor. But there are things we love - the music, the food, the people who are genuine. The book is just a collection of short essays he wrote for other publications but they touch my heart. If you want to know about the true "South" read this book. Perhaps the best section is about the "Faux South." You know, the one you saw in Gone With the Wind or when you went to the convention in Atlanta or New Orleans. Unless you grew up there, this book is the closest you will come to understanding us and why we act and believe the way we do.
I grew up in Baltimore where we straddle the line between north and south. I easily resonate with some of these stories: Tomato sandwiches really do call for white fluffy bread which as a rule I do not like. I have visions of my grandfather and mother both claiming the last pickled pig's foot. And even now my husband slips a pocketknife into his right pocket as he gets dressed.
Some of Bragg's tales of nostalgia are universal: childhood trips to the beach, mothers and aunts with home permanents [or hair color], holidays.
A smile punctuated with chuckles and laughs was in place pretty much throughout most of my reading of these stories as Bragg tells us about his family, some of his travels, and life in the south.
And this man can write; he has a gift with words:
“... dodging potholes so old and deep that the devil must use them as a shortcut home...”
“Yet how lovely, to think that a person can live forever as long as one last bird sings in the dying light of one more day.”
When trying to get home for Thanksgiving, "The fact is, all I was rushing home to rediscover was not lost because the planes did not fly. It unfolded, warmly, deliciously, timelessly, just out of reach, and it really is enough to know a thing endures, lives on, just beyond your touch, your presence. You can live inside that, knowing that it does."
If you're not southern, Bragg may have you wishing you were.
Bragg is brilliant with words. This is one of the most Southern books I've ever read and it is done so well. I particularly loved the opening essay about his Aunt, the Pat Conroy mention, as well as his essay on Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. Football is life and talking about Alabama/Auburn and his riff on Notre Dame and Michigan just hit right. I love when he talks about Atlanta and the Varsity. I love the South and I love and miss Alabama. So many times I felt I was listening to my friend Gary (who I also desperately miss) because they sound the same and use the same phrases and words. If you too love the South and understand it, you'll get a lot out of Bragg's musings.
Bragg’s books feel like home. Like I’m a kid again, growing up in Kentucky, listening to my parents, grandparents, and especially my Memaw (great grandma), tell stories of their youth. I met Bragg once and we chatted over the time I lived in south Alabama. He was so kind and welcoming. It was a true pleasure. He’s one of my absolute favorite memoirists, spinning stories with such richness and ease. I could listen to his drawl all day.
Right here, right now I would marry Rick Bragg. I would move straight to Alabama and bring my Aussie and 3 more cats. I would sit on the porch and just listen to his stories forever. Already he has put me on the path to Pat Conroy whose books I have somehow missed. I’m dying to read his other books about his mama and Jerry Lee too.
If you are from the south these essays will bring you right back or remind you why you stayed. If you’re from the north you will just wonder why.
What a great book to begin the new year! Mostly, I laughed out loud at some of Mr. Bragg's writings. Sometimes I felt nostalgic for the South I grew up in, even though it's only a few hours south of where I now live...it feels sometimes like a different state/area/local. Well, it is...I love both. And then...then there's Mr. Bragg on "Keeping It Real" on page 67-68. He writes of what "SUTHUN" means on a big SUV tag, and how the south is changing. But this is a chapter I can't read without weeping, as he writes about going through the cemetery where his kin are buried, where some of the names on the stones have "worn away, but not their language." The last sentence, the poignant one, is where I burst into tears: "When I forget who I am, I will wander in the weeds among them all, till I find my way again." Just as his kin are not perfect, mine aren't either...but I am who I am because of them, their values and ethics, how they loved me, etc. And, like Rick Bragg, I am blessed...and I'll find my way again should I forget...
Do I rate the writing or the collection? I'm torn.
This is a collection of Bragg's articles, primarily from Southern Living and Garden and Gun magazines. I get both of those and had read all but 1 (from a different source) of these short stories before. Each is classic Bragg, a combination of humor and heartfelt awe at his family, travels, and life in northeast Alabama. The writing is solid. If you haven't read any of these prior, then I would highly recommend this. However, now re-reading these all the way through at one time, I think the original magazine article format, spread out over months and years, works better for the stories therein. Lumping the stories together by subject matter led to a bit of overload per topic - all the food articles together, all the sports articles together, etc. I loved these stories when they were written, the one about his Aunt Jo and his feelings on new country music especially, but I'm not so keen on this as a combined collection. If you read this, and I really think you should if you haven't already, I would suggest reading a story or two, putting it down for a while, then coming back to it one or two at a time. The writing is 5 stars. As a collection is 1 or 2 stars. I'm going with the average of 3.
I’ve long been a fan of Rick Bragg’s writing, even though I’m not from the South, and ( wink) forgiving the fact that he disparages my state a few times in this book,and once is even when he visits our beautiful “ Greatest Snow On Earth” area to cover the 2002 Winter Olympics. He just hates the cold and Utah does have 4 seasons. And yes, the joke is that sometimes we have them all in one day. Anyway you don’t have to be from the South to enjoy Bragg’s love of home, tradition, food, and family. From the time he wrote about his mother and his humble beginnings in All Over But The Shoutin ‘ I’ve been enamored of his nostalgic writing style. So here’s a five star rating from a same aged, well traveled, avid reading, Mountain Stater whose greatest joy is being the Christmas Casserole baking grandmother of 8. These are slice of live essays and if you subscribe to Southern Living magazine you may have read some of them, but I’m guessing everyone will love this relatable compilation. 5 stars- read for On The Southern Literary Trail club.
I spent the first part of my life on the East Coast, and the second part of my life on the West Coast. Recently, I have moved to the Gulf Coast. I am officially tri-coastal, and I'm in the process of acclimating. Hence, the book.
Mr. Bragg, though a native son of Alabama, covers broad swatches of the south in these essays. They trip lightly from subject to subject and place to place. And he covers all the cultural touchstones: fishing, church, southern cuisine, racism, country music, college football, pick-up trucks, his mama, etc. The tales he tells are nostalgic, poignant, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Good God, I had a good time reading them! (I listened to the audiobook, BTW, while strolling along the Mississippi River, which I think should earn me bonus points somehow.)
This is a broad generalization, but there seem to be some cultures that are just born story-tellers, and for whom there's an inate lyricism. The Irish come immediately to mind--and those from the American South. Mr. Bragg does this tradition proud. In this time of lockdowns and travel restrictions, a few hours with this book may feel like a legitimate vacation. Highly recommended!
Where I Come From: Stories from the Deep South by Rick Bragg is a very highly recommended collection of personal columns that originally were published in Southern Living and Garden & Gun. This is an absolutely wonderful diverse collection of personal stories and observations presented in Bragg's patented folksy charming manner. As you read you'll smile, laugh, feel nostalgic, and be left with a warm heart and a good feeling. During stressful times, this would be a perfect collection to read one or two columns at a time just to unwind and take a deep breathe before continuing your day.
The seventy plus columns are organized into nine different chapters or categories that are composed of columns which fit into the topic. Don't expect angry, combative, opinionated columns. As Bragg writes in the introduction: The stories in this collection are of the South’s gentler, easier nature. It is a litany of great talkers, blue-green waters, deep casseroles, kitchen-sink permanents, lying fishermen, haunted mansions, and dogs that never die, things that make this place more than a dotted line on a map or a long-ago failed rebellion, even if only in some cold-weather dream.
I enjoyed all of the columns immensely. As with all collections, some of the pieces will resonate with certain readers more than others, but I felt like they were all enjoyable or worthwhile reading. Even if you aren't from the South or have never even visited a Southern state, this compilation touches on several universal themes that can point to similar experiences in almost everyone's life, as well as experiences that are uniquely Southern. This would be an excellent gift.
Let me leave you with a thought about hot chicken from Bragg that had me doubled over in laughter: "It seemed like the kind of thing that could lead to questionable behavior. One day you order some hot chicken; the next morning you wake up with your belly button pierced and a picture of David Hasselhoff tattooed on your posterior. Point me to a prayer meetin’."
Such a F U N read!! My favorite parts are surely Rick Bragg’s descriptions of food!! Especially “Tomato Sandwiches”, as southern as it gets. Rick Bragg’s descriptive words of growing up southern, tickled my funny bones. Sometimes his beautiful words of devotion to, friends, family and pets pulled at my heart strings. Stories so rich in culture, unique times growing up, an abundance of gratitude for what’s really important in this life! All this and more make, ‘Where I Come From’ a truly wonderful book!!
I seem to be in the minority and I'm disappointed that I didn't like this enough to finish it. I was really looking forward to reading it so was surprised that I felt relieved to make the decision to stop reading nearly halfway through this book of essays. Previously published in "Southern Living" and "Garden and Gun" magazines, this compilation of very short articles was just OK. I love southern writers and their perspective on the culture, the food, the humor, the lifestyle. But somehow I felt like I was on the outside looking in as Bragg related anecdotes from his childhood, his relatives, his experiences with fishing, cars, dogs and other southern topics. This wasn't warm or humorous or endearing. It was just a little better than boring.
Years and years ago, I read Rick Bragg's most popular book All Over But the Shoutin', which is his memoir of growing up in poverty in Alabama in the mid-20th century. His latest release is Where I Come From, which is a collection of short essays about life in Alabama and other areas of the American South. The essays are grouped into sections including ones about Halloween, Christmas and Sports. My favorites were the ones about holidays or food (of course, since I am all about the food). As with "All Over..." Bragg's writing is woven through with wit and self deprecation. He clearly loves his family and loves his experiences growing and living in the South.
Most of these essays are quite short and can be read in 3 minutes or less. There were a few that maybe took 10 minutes to read. So this is a great book to keep at hand for those times when you have a spare moment to read.
I may be a pseudo southerner (10 years in Florida) but I love the area as much as Rick Bragg does. Sunshine, palm trees, alligators, hurricanes, heat and humidity - what more could you ask for?
His collection of short stories just drips with Spanish moss. I have read his other books so this was like hooking up with old friends. Found myself laughing out loud.
Just one thing surprises me. He lived on Anna Maria Island and mentions Bean Point, but he never mentions Charles Roser, who before he developed the island with Mr Bean created Fig Newton cookies. I always thought that was a fun fact!
It is really hard for me not to love Rick Bragg, especially when I get to listen to him read his own work. I probably didn’t love this quite as much as My Southern Journey or The Best Cook in the World, but I just enjoy the listening experience so much that it gets 5 stars from me.
A favorite from this collection was about the pocket knife. “Think, for just a moment, about your grandfather. He would have no more left the house without a pocketknife than without his breeches, for while a man of his era could survive this drafty world without pantaloons, he would sooner or later need to snip some twine, or punch a hole in an oil can, or dig a line splinter out of some urchin’s foot, or just slice an apple. One of these days, men will no longer love or need their pocketknives this way. That is when we know the last Southern man has shuffled off into the sunset, to make room for a world of helpless no-accounts.”
I do not need a statue or a flag to know that I am Southern. I can taste it in the food, feel it in my heart, and hear it in the language of my kin.
This collection of stories are, every one, a story of my upbringing. While reading this, I laughed often and yes, shed a few tears. It was like taking a trip of the most nostalgic places and people, and every one I could point to a circumstance, a person or a place. I grew up with gifted storytellers. Without fail, every one, has a sense of humor. Being a good storyteller relies on timing, a strong voice, rhythm and cadence. It does not go unnoticed that many great storytellers are some of our favorite songwriters, preachers and comedians.
Rick Bragg is an awesome storyteller. If you can, try to read the audio version, read by the author. He encompasses all good storyteller traits, and then some. It is a great book, and I am sure I will read it again, if nothing else, to exercise my funny bone. There are so many things going on in the world today, try to laugh (hard & a lot) every single day.
My favorite author and one of the few that I have to have their books the minute they come off the press. The author has written articles for Southern Living magazine and another one called Guns and Gardens. I have often thought about buying Southern Living just to get the Rick Bragg articles, but living almost as far north in the United States as you can get, it didnt seem too practical. So I was excited to get a compilation of his articles from these magazines and I was not disappointed. Bragg is down-home country boy and has a lyrical way of writing that is soothing to the soul. Oh, and he likes food! When I read his work I want to move to the south. Oh well, maybe in my next life!