Dispatches from Up South
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âI left the South in search of the Enlightenment. Iâm pro-
choice, in favor of gay marriage, and against creationism
and the war in Iraq. But both my parentsâ people are deep
Southern from many generations, and I spent a little over a
third of my life, including the presumably most formative
years (toilet training through college), living in the
South. Mathematically, that makes me just about exactly as
Southern as the American people, 34 percent of whom are
Southern residents. But it goes deeper than mathâmy roots
are Southern, I sound Southern, I love a lot of Southern
stuff, and when my [Northern] local paper announces a
festival to âcelebrate the spirit of differently abled
dogs,â I react as a Southerner. I believe I care as much
about dogsâ feelings as anybody. It is hard for me to
imagine that a dog with three legs minds being called a
A sly, dry, hilarious collection of essaysâhis first in
more than ten yearsâfrom the writer who, according to The
New York Times Book Review, is âin serious contention for
the title of Americaâs most cherished humorist.â
This time Blount focuses on his own dueling loyalties
across the great American divide, North vs. South.
Scholarly, raunchy, biting and affable, olâ Roy takes on
topics ranging from chicken fingers to yellow-dog Democrats
to Elvisâs toes. And he shares experiences: chatting with
Ray Charles, rounding up rattlesnakes, watching George and
Tammy record, meeting an Okefenokee alligator (also named
George, or Georgette), imagining Faulknerâs tennis game,
and being swept up, sort of, in the filming of Nashville.
His yarns, analyses, and flights of fancy transcend all
standard shades of Red, Blue, and in between.
Roy on language: âRemember when there was lots of agitated
discussion of Ebonics, pro and con? I kept waiting for
someone to say that if you acquire white English, you can
become Clarence Thomas, whereas if you acquire black
English, you can become Quentin Tarantino.â
Roy on eating: âThe way folks were meant to eat is the way
my family ate when I was growing up in Georgia. We ate till
we got tired. Then we went âWhoo!â and leaned back and
wholeheartedly expressed how much we regretted that we
couldnât summon up the strength, right then, to eat some
Roy on racism: âAnybody who claims . . . not to have âa
racist boneâ in his or her body is, at best, preracist and
has a longer way to go than the rest of us.â
Blountâs previous books have included reflections on a
Southern president (Jimmy Carter), a novel about a Southern
president (Clementine Fox), a biography of Robert E. Lee, a
celebration of New Orleans, a memoir of growing up in
Georgia, and the definitive anthology of Southern humor.
Long Time Leaving is the capper. Maybe it wonât end the
Civil War at last, but it does clarify, or aptly
complicate, divisive delusions on both sides of the
longstanding national rift. Itâs a comic ode to American
variety and also a droll assault on complacency North and
Southâa glorious union of diverse pieces reshaped and
expanded into an American classic, from one of the most
definitive and esteemed humorists of our time.
Talk of the Nation - October 22, 2008
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