I just completed reading Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin’, which was recommended to me by Charles McNair. In truth, I just completed the second reading. As soon as I finished it the first time around, I started over again, ‘cause I had to make sure I’d read it right. First time I’ve ever done that with any book – ever.
Since I now know I read it right the first two times, I went to ABE and ordered his entire backlist. I’ve never done that before, either. I’m not loyal to authors (generally speaking.) Okay… maybe a couple; Jane Austin (when I am melancholy and hopeless), Bruce Chatwin (when I need to get out of my own head), and James Lee Burke (when I really feel like slumming.) Think what you will, if you could see what all I’ve read over the last three or four years, you’d know this loyalty is atypical.
This book – this man’s voice – got into my head and got under my skin. Too many similarities in our early lives to ignore; too many stark contrasts to gloss over. I’m still processing it. But I’ll say this; Rick Bragg has given me hope that an insecure, beat-down, quietly pissed off person with a hard, chiseled chip on her shoulder might still have a chance in this Starbucks, homogenized world. Prior to reading this memoir, I never really thought it was possible. I just accepted that I was doomed to dream and wish without any hope of actually accomplishing anything worthwhile. (If you ever heard anything contradicting this notion, it was pure bravado. I never believed it. Not till now.)
Just to be clear, I am not aspiring for a Pulitzer. I know better than that. Hell, I’d be satisfied just to get a publisher willing to put my verbiage between two covers and then have some bookseller scan a bar code on it. The idea that someone might want to read something I wrote is as big as I dare dream. It’s big enough for me. This time around anyway. (I’m a believer in multiple opportunities at screwing things up.)
Rick Bragg has given me permission to have any dreams at all. If that Alabama cracker can do it all the way to New York and the Pulitzer, then by God I can do something closer to home. And suddenly I don’t give a rats ass what my family thinks (I didn’t get the support Rick got, still don’t, never will), or what the world thinks, or how poor I am, or how old I am. I’m just about fed up with people telling me to stop wasting my time and get a job (I tried that for 30 years, it sucked, it didn’t work, and it made me miserable.) I’m tired of wasted time and wasted energy on other people’s bullshit.
I’m going to take a line out of Rick Bragg’s book and just refuse to listen to or be intimidated by the people who have been working in concert most of my life to keep me in check. Fuck ‘em all. I’m gonna do something with this drive. And then I’m gonna keep doing it until I die of trying to do it the rest of my mortal life on this earth.
Rick Bragg has finally given me permission to write from who I am, and what is real as I experience it, and stop trying to be something I am not.
‘Bless his heart’
Fuck ’em all.