Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.
All Over but the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
1997 Pantheon Books
Finished on December 22, 1997
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding!)
A haunting memoir about growing up dirt-poor in the pines of Alabama--and about moving on but never really being able to leave.
The extraordinary gifts for evocation and insight and the stunning talent for storytelling that earned Rick Bragg a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1996 are here brought to bear on the wrenching story of his own family's life. It is the story of a war-haunted, hard-drinking father and a strong-willed, loving mother who struggled to protect her sons from the effects of poverty and ignorance that had constricted her own life. It is the story of the life Bragg was able to carve out for himself on the strength of his mother's encouragement and belief. And it is the story of his attempts to both atone for and avenge the mistakes and cruelties of his past.
All Over but the Shoutin' is a gripping account of people struggling to make sense and solidity of life's capricious promises. A classic piece of Americana, it is made vividly, movingly particular by Rick Bragg's searching vision, generous humor, and richly nuanced voice.
My Original Notes (1997):
The best book I've read all year. The absolute best!
He made me laugh out loud. Made me almost cry. Made me want to meet him and his mama.
Bragg writes the most beautiful sentences!
My Current Thoughts:
I was born in Canada and raised in California, but after reading anything Rick Bragg writes, I can't help but speak with a southern drawl. Words and phrases such as, Y'all, poooool, Sugar, and bless her heart have suddenly wormed their way into my vocabulary! All joking aside, this man can write. His gorgeous phrasing reminds me of Pat Conroy's lyrical passages in Beach Music. (Oh, those Southern writers.) He makes me laugh and tugs at my heartstrings. I read this book over twenty years ago and it's remained on my shelf of lifetime favorites, waiting to be read again. I think it's time. It is truly fine writing.
Rick Bragg writes like a man on fire. And All Over but the Shoutin' is a work of art. I thought of Melville, I thought of Faulkner. Because I love the English language, I knew I was reading one of the best books I've ever read. By explaining his life to the world, Rick Bragg explained part of my life to me. I fell in love with is mother a hundred times. I wept when the book ended. I never met Rick Bragg in my life, but I called him up and told him he'd written a masterpiece, and I sent flowers to his mother. ~Pat Conroy
Searingly honest, beautifully written, All Over but the Shoutin' is perhaps the most courageous thing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg has ever written. Bragg has never failed to record the grace and dignity of people who life their lives in the margins. Here he gives us the story of himself, a child of poor white Southerners, and of his family--an alcoholic, mostly absent father, and an extraordinary mother, quietly heroic in the face of devastating poverty. Bragg looks down the corridors of his past with love, hate, humor, regret, self-doubt, and understanding. In the telling, he may occasionally flinch, but he never turns away. ~Willie Morris
Bragg's tribute, a love story for his mother, honored her for the sacrifices she made as a mother. What a remarkable way to say thank you.