In this irresistible collection of wide-ranging and endearingly personal columns culled from his best-loved pieces in Southern Living and Garden & Gun, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Rick Bragg muses on everything from his love of Tupperware to the decline of country music; from the legacy of Harper Lee to the metamorphosis of the pickup truck; and from the best way to kill fire ants to why any self-respecting Southern man worth his salt should carry a good knife.
An ode to the stories and the history of the South, crackling with tenderness, wit, and deep affection, Where I Come From celebrates “a litany of great talkers, blue-green waters, deep casseroles, kitchen-sink permanents, lying fishermen, haunted mansions, and dogs that never die, things that make this place more than a dotted line on a map or a long-ago failed rebellion, even if only in some cold-weather dream.” Evoking the beauty and the odd particularity of humble origins, Bragg's searching vision, generous humor, and richly nuanced voice bring a place, a people, and a world vividly to life.
Despite a generous helping of folksy wit and charm, this compilation of previously published columns from Pulitzer winner Bragg (The Best Cook in the World) amounts to a frustratingly shallow tribute to the South. There are laugh-out-loud moments throughout, as Bragg recounts close encounters with such perils as spicy fried chicken in Nashville, alligators in Florida's Lake Okeechobee, and a particularly ill-tempered goat. However, Bragg's jabs at contemporary culture, as a self-described "crotchety relic," wear thin as the book proceeds. "New country," he writes, "is as country as a black turtleneck, all hat and no cow," the phrase for somebody deemed insufficiently rural to don a cowboy hat. Bragg grouses that too many Southerners "anchor themselves with clich s," but the whole book is a paean to Southern clich s. More damagingly, Bragg makes a half-hearted attempt to account for the hate on display at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.: "I hear that many of the people who marched in Charlottesville were Southern men, but I didn't know them." Bragg's longtime fans will enjoy the piquant one-liners they've come to expect, but new readers looking for meaningful insight into the South should look to his previous works.