My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg: Dare I Compare Him to Pat Conroy?

September 18, 2015 Nonfiction 17

My Southern Journey, Rick BraggNonfiction – Essays
Released September 15, 2015
256 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Oxmoor House) via NetGalley

Headline

Bragg shows off Pat Conroy-caliber writing in his essay collection about Southern life. My Southern Journey is going on my Great Books Under 300 Pages lists.

Plot Summary

A collection of Bragg’s previously published (in various magazines and newspapers) articles about Southern life and culture.

Why I Read It

I loved Bragg’s memoir, All Over But the Shoutin’, about growing up in rural Alabama and got to meet him at BEA this year (where he autographed my book with “To Sarah, Who gets it”, which obviously warmed my heart).

Major Themes

The South (duh!), food, traditions, family lore, football, cultural observations

What I Liked

  • Bragg’s introduction to this collection is a thing of beauty. He shares that he tries to avoid writing about the South in cliches (i.e. “no pig pickin’, frat parties, or cutthroat beauty contests”) and he truly does accomplish this. Dare I say that his writing about the South reminds me of Pat Conroy’s (for regular readers of this blog, you know this is a huge compliment from me)? And, a minute after this comparison occurred to me, Bragg mentioned having dinner with Conroy. I thought, “of course.”
  • Bragg showcases his many talents in this collection: he’s a master at stringing words together in interesting ways, a storyteller, a travel writer, a food writer, an arbiter of culture, and a sports journalist.
  • His essays range wildly in tone, from the heartfelt to nostalgic to funny (i.e. his mother becoming a crazy cat lady, his forays into carpentry) to incredibly insightful.
  • There’s a nice, big dose of college football commentary (well, Alabama and the SEC to be specific), which is also quite a presence in our house (see my 8 Books for Football Fans post).

What I Didn’t Like

  • There is some repetition among the essays. Some small anecdotes and background is repeated across multiple essays. This is to be expected given the essays were originally published as stand-alones, but I would have liked to see some minor edits for the purpose of this book.

A Defining Quote

People ask me, often, why I love a place so imperfect, where the mosquitoes dance between lukewarm rain and the summer heat turns every stretch of blacktop into a shimmering river of hot tar, where the football-mad fling curses and sometimes punches and forget their raising on call-in radio, and the politicians seem intent on a return to 1954. I merely answer: How do you not love a place where the faded beads from a parade six years before still hang in the branches of live oak trees.

Good for People Who Like…

Gorgeous writing, small-town life, Southern culture, sports

Other Books You May Like

All Over But the Shoutin’ by Rick Bragg
The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy
The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life by Pat Conroy

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17 Responses to “My Southern Journey by Rick Bragg: Dare I Compare Him to Pat Conroy?”

  1. Kay

    Me too – or rather – what JoAnn said! I’ve heard a lot of good things about All Over But The Shoutin’. And I love Pat Conroy too. Plus, I love the South (and in my mind Texas is included in the South – at least a little).

  2. Tara @ Running 'N' Reading

    Well, now I’m definitely going to have to read it…All Over But the Shoutin’ is fantastic; I read the copy my MIL loaned to me and I really wish I had my own copy. I’ll just buy both – ha! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Sarah; there was a time when I tried to get away from Southern culture/traditions/ideas, but they’re definitely a part of who I am and I wouldn’t trade it now.

    • admin

      They just seem to stick with you, don’t they?! I’ve lived in the North for over a decade and still consider myself a Southerner. You’ll love all the SEC football stuff in this book. And, the essays are short, so you can read one here and there.

  3. Lauren

    I was so happy to finally meet someone else who appreciates Rick Bragg. I’m looking forward to this one so very much, thanks for writing it up. I met Rick when he came through town on the Ava’s Man tour, and I’ll have to look it up, but he wrote something in my book about staying out of jail. Huh. (I did, though!)

    • admin

      YES!!! Both to a fellow Rick Bragg fan and to what he wrote in your book! I like his sense of humor. I feel like when I first read All Over But the Shoutin’, I and many people I know had never heard of him. Glad to hear that’s changed!

  4. Amanda

    I just asked my mom to try to pick up a signed copy of this for my husband so I am delighted by your review! I really need to read some Bragg myself next.

    • admin

      Yes, yes! It had been so long since I read is other memoirs and I was thrilled to find I still love his writing!

    • admin

      Well, not exactly new (since I read his other 2 memoirs years ago), but can I say resurrected favorite?

  5. Kathy @ Kathy Reads Fiction

    Repetition is a huge pet peeve of mine; I can’t stand it, but I can live with a little repetition if the writing and story are great. I love a good book set in the South (an automatic go-to for me) and am ashamed to say that I have Pat Conroy on my shelf but haven’t read him.

    • admin

      If you love a good book about the South, you definitely need to try Conroy! The Lords of Discipline might be my favorite of his.

    • admin

      I’m not a fan of short stories either, but this is more like a collection of magazine or newspaper articles!

  1. It's Okay to be Nervous | The Novel Connection

    […] years before I started blogging. So I was thrilled to find that he had a new essay collection (My Southern Journey) coming out in Fall 2015 and was going to be doing a signing at BEA that May. I waited in his […]

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