My Southern Journey, Rick Bragg
Another excellent short story collection from Bragg… he writes of the South in a way beyond cliches, and pulls his writings from memories and stories of his own blood. As he mentions, there’s more to the South than deer hunting, NASCAR, and college football. Like how a man could name a ravaged and dying dog, and have her rise inside, somehow; how Southern cooking is an art.. he is a Southern man who believes if God meant him to have washboard abs, he would have left him in the hayfields of Alabama slinging 50lb bales up on the flatbed (his reasoning for why he should eat baby-back ribs); remembrances of his mother, aunts, brothers coming to see him in Florida with fried chicken cooked in an iron skillet and homegrown tomatoes and jugs of water from Germania Springs; how when shopping he knew the first time he saw a pair of skinny jeans on a man, that he no longer had a place in this world..” should probably just go live by myself in a hole in the ground,” immune to fashion, loathe to shop.. and preferring to wander in the wilderness; the monstrosity of oil rigs.. and how every cool wave reminded him of what would be lost when the oil crept in off the shores of the Gulf Coast; Christmas tidings Southern style, the perfection of older homes where every nail driven with the force of a strong man’s hands, every piece of wood handled and measured and cut with that same strength… all that matters to him, and damn do I respect that. Being old school doesn’t make you wrong, and actually, from time to time, we can all learn something from it. As Bragg mentions, loving the South requires a sense of humor at times, and since he’s been writing about it since 1977, I think he’s got quite a good hold on it.