Prue Range's Reviews > America Divine: Travels in the Hidden South

America Divine by Dallas Angguish
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it was amazing

As I've said before, Dallas Angguish is what you'd get if Victor Frankenstein made a new monster by splicing together body parts of David Sedaris, Truman Capote, Bruce Chatwin and just a bit of Djuna Barnes. Having read his new contribution to the travel writing genre I'd like to add Mark Twain and Zora Neale Hurston to the mix. The former wrote great travel essays and the latter gave insider accounts of voodoo.

The back of the book describes America Divine as: "a collection of travel tales set in the Deep South, particularly New Orleans. The stories feature voodoo practitioners, psychics, snake handlers, con-artists, ghosts and boozy Savannah landladies and are quirky, engaging and often satisfyingly sensual."

However, America Divine is a lot more than that. It is also about the author's own attempts to come to terms with the enigmatic South, and its strange religious permutations. The reader goes along with Angguish as he tries to encounter the "true heart" of the South. This is fascinating because Angguish openly shows his confusion, anxiety and fears around the scarier aspects of voodoo and backwoods Christianity. The author doesn't offer pat resolutions about what to believe is real or unreal in voodoo and evangelical miracles. He simply leaves the reader with his impressions so that they can make up their own minds. I liked this aspect of it very much. I appreciated that Angguish didn't disrespect the beliefs of those he met but also didn't try to convince the reader of their authenticity.

I read this book over one weekend. I loved it. It is strange and beautiful and sensual and yes, a little bit quirky. If you like Capote, Chatwin or Southern Literature in general, you'll love this "outsiders" take on the South.

Warning: If you've read Anywhere But Here you will note that much of the first third of that book is republished in this book. But the old stories have been extended and improved and there are also four completely new stories. One of the new stories takes up nearly a third of the book. It is definitely worth it to get this book (especially as Anywhere But Here is so hard to get these days).
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