Rick Bragg’s memoir, All Over But the Shoutin’, has a lot of potential. He ostensibly claims it is a story about his mother and growing up extremely poor in Northeastern Alabama. Bragg grew up with a single mother and a father who drank a lot, and somehow turned into a reporter for the New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize.
Bragg does some things really well with this book. His depiction of his mother is of a wonderful woman who gave up everything to raise her three children as well as she could. Everything Bragg wrote about his mother brought tears to my eyes, and was thoroughly engrossing. This book makes you want to spend time with his mother, get to know her, and bake her cookies.
However, at some point, Bragg’s story about his mother becomes a story about himself, which might be fine if not for the fact that Bragg is a terrible person and reading about him is no fun at all. He evinces a hatred of everyone who is not just like him-poor and Southern-based on the incorrect view that no one who grew up middle class could possible have struggled through anything. He does not even mention the fact that he was unceremoniously booted from the NYT because he falsified a byline. He believes that growing up poor made him understand a woman’s urge to kill her children. Everything Bragg says about himself is disingenuous, at best. This is something you expect from an autobiography, but this book was billed as a memoir, not as an autobiography. Also, why the hell not just buy your mother a cheaper, but still nice house??
Bragg’s writing drove me crazy. His writing style reminded me of Scott Templeton’s, and he used one-sentence paragraphs so much that I thought I was reading the longest newspaper article ever written. Furthermore, he would sprinkle in southern colloquialisms in a way that was offensive to anyone actually from the South.