Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Recommendation: ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN' by Rick Bragg

No matter how much I enjoy them, books rarely make me want to contact their authors. I loved, loved, loved Suzanne Collins’s THE HUNGER GAMES, for instance, but all that book made me do was hunker down to wait for the sequel. Not so with Rick Bragg’s ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN’, a beautifully written memoir about his roundabout journey from Alabama country boy to Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist. After closing his book, I went straight to the computer and spent a whole fifteen minutes poking around the website for the NEW YORK TIMES, trying to track down Mr. Bragg.

All right, all right, so I didn’t invest too much time or energy into finding an e-mail address. Besides, there’s a good chance that, more than twelve years after the book’s publication, Mr. Bragg isn’t even working for the Times anymore. But I would still love to sit down and eat lunch with him sometime, mostly so that I could hear more about his momma.

Although ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN’ does chronicle the rise and development of his newspaper career, at its core, the story struck me as being a tribute to his mother. It was interesting to read about his Harvard fellowship, of course, and the horrific atrocities he covered in Haiti, but it was his characters--the living, breathing, sweating, crying men and women around whom his life danced--that really engaged me. Especially his saintly mother. She took nothing from life so that her sons could have everything. I would like to hear more about a woman like that.

Every fiction reader should pick up a nonfiction something or other every now and then, just to remember that some stories are real. And this one provides a wonderful reality check.

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