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This time Blount focuses on his own dueling loyalties across the great American divide North vs South Scholarly raunchy biting and affable ol' Roy takes on topics ranging from chicken fingers to yellow dog Democrats to Elvis's 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 Faulkner's 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


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    The temptation in writing about someone as witty as Roy Blount Jr is just to rear back and quote So let’s put temptation before us with a sample of what’s to be found in his latest book “Long Time Leaving” • On Truman Capote “his writing did over time tend to break up in the opposite but complementary directions of mistiness and nastiness until all the romance was gone and he was reduced to a mode we might call desiccated indiscreet”• On pretentious academic studies of the blues “the Garons have heaped upon the supremely no nonsense Memphis Minnie of all people a load of flummery They present us with an enormous wad of tulle and bubble wrap and tell us there’s a wildcat in there” • On religion “I never heard anyone say ‘What would Jesus do?’ when I was growing up We knew Jesus would most likely do what he did do – something crazy by community standards some far out liberal crucifiable offense something we weren’t about to do” • On dogs “I have been unable so far to find a very gratifying petting surface on a poodle Where a poodle is fluffy I can’t get any traction and where it’s close cropped it’s like petting a nubbly carpet I prefer a dog that’s somewhere between a chicken and a baseball to the touch” • On Bill Clinton “The big galoot still tugs at us personally like a two year old trying to drag us over to the candy counter” If that’s not enough to persuade you that Blount might well be the finest American humorist since James Thurber then you need to read this book anyway Dave Barry might be skilled at exploring the weirdness to be found in the flea markets and garage sales that constitute American culture and David Sedaris unless you are one of those who are shocked shocked to learn that he makes stuff up might be better at locating the hilarity behind the frequently painful episodes of his personal life But no one has a finer ear is a talented listener and is better at getting what he hears onto paper than Blount whether he’s doing a spot on parody in which William Faulkner plays mixed doubles tennis with Zasu Pitts Clark Gable and Dorothy Parker or he’s re creating the kind of conversation you might hear at a Southern dinner table You might call Blount a deconstructed Southerner His latest book is a collection of essays on some of his favorite things food music books movies friends places and politics But because roughly half of it is made up of the columns slugged “Gone Off Up North” that he wrote for the Oxford American magazine it’s largely about what it means to be from the South – in Blount’s case Decatur Ga – but not of the South or at least not the South as imagined by some Northerners and Left Coasters a place largely inhabited by clones of Jerry Falwell Snuffy Smith and David DukeBlount who characterizes himself as “a pre baby boom liberal Southern Democrat living in semirural Massachusetts” has now spent about two thirds of his life out of the South “The Enlightenment is essentially what I left home looking for and I found it” he tells us The South is a nice place to visit but he doesn’t want to live there Yet he is ineluctably a Southern writer “I maintain you can’t live in the South and be a deep dyed Southern writer If you live in the South you are just writing about folks so far as you can tell and it comes out Southern For all we know if you moved West you’d be a Western writer Whereas if you live outside the South you are being a Southern writer either a on purpose or b because you can’t help it Which comes to the same thing in the end you are deep dyed” Humorists don’t win Nobel Prizes in Literature ’s the pity even though the craft of being funny is far arduous than that of being serious as the labored examples of countless newspaper columnists and blathering bloggers show As some actor or other is said to have proclaimed on his deathbed “Dying is easy Comedy is hard” Blount’s special gift the one he shares with such towering figures as Thurber and Mark Twain is a kind of sprezzatura He makes it look easyThe greatness of Blount is not only that he’s witty but also that he’s wise “A book” he tells us “ought to be something that a person can read the way a person is meant to eat chicken something with plenty of unabashed and also intimate flavor ruddy and deep dyed flavor flavor hard to separate from the structure flavor that is never really exhaustible” “Long Time Leaving” is that kind of book So pull up a copy and dig in