Tag Archives: Southern Y’all

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix

Southern Book ClubPatricia has ninety minutes before she has to lead the discussion of Cry, the Beloved Country for the Mount Pleasant women’s book club. She had worked so hard to get into the exclusive little group, and now, for her very first discussion, she hadn’t had time to read the book. She had read the first sentence several times, but something always happened, such as when her daughter had to be driven to one of her many practices or the time her son had to be rushed to the emergency room because he had stuffed 24 raisins up his nose. Despite all of her excuses, she was tossed out of the club. Walking back to her car, she heard, “Pssst!” from the darkness. Some of the other women had decided to start a club of their own, and to Patricia’s shock and dismay, they were going to read true crime novels. Within days, though, she knew that she had found her tribe.

Taking out the trash a few nights later, Patricia was startled to find her unpleasant elderly neighbor rummaging through the cans and snacking on a raccoon. When she heard Patricia, she turned and attacked her, biting off part of her earlobe. The old woman died in the hospital, and her only known relative was her great-nephew James, who had recently shown up to care for her. Patricia thought it would only be proper to bring James a casserole—it was the Southern thing to do. So, with the stitches still adorning her ear, Patricia walked down the street with a taco dish in hand. James didn’t answer the door, so she pushed it open and found James lying down, not breathing. Patricia’s nurse training kicked in, and she immediately started to administer the CPR that he so obviously needed. Except he didn’t.

I am not a reader of horror books, but after the historical fiction novel I had just finished, I was looking for something light. The cover of this book is irresistible: peaches, one with two puncture marks dribbling blood. Furthermore, it’s 1) Southern (check), 2) book club (check), 3) vampires (um…). I don’t know a lot about Grady Hendrix, but he has absolutely nailed the culture—and especially the women—of 1990 Charleston, SC. We lived there for five years in just about the same time period in which this novel is set, and the excruciating correctness is spot on. Although all of the members of the book club are individuals, they display various facets of Southern women of a certain class. Their homes are perfect, their children are in all the right activities, and their world is amazingly narrow. The husbands are in authority, controlling their wives’ choice of friends, activities, and books. This would be a horror novel if only for the husbands.

Hendrix’s writing is absolutely hilarious. He skewers upscale Southern culture with a fondness that reveals an intimate acquaintance. On the other hand, he also scared the daylights out of me. A friend warned me that some of the scenes were gory— and they were— but the scenes of psychological tension were the best. I have had nightmares before where I am running around the house, trying to get all of the doors and windows locked before someone outside gets to them first—or pops up in the glass right in front of me. Yeah, that was in there. I don’t think I breathed for page after page, terrified for Patricia and her children. There were other such scenes that fill the reader with such creeping dread that you can’t turn the pages fast enough.

The tension builds throughout this delicious novel right up to the horrible, disgusting, and totally well-deserved ending. Even though the plot is all about ridding the old-money neighborhood of monsters and McMansions, Patricia is actually finding out about real friendship, women who will show up for you even when it means ruining their shoes and their manicures.

If you have a strong stomach and don’t mind a couple of weirdly sexual scenes, y’all, this book is a hoot.

Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this book, which will be available on April 7th. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. #LibraryReads

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You Might Be a Redneck

David launched into a major rant a couple of days ago, and if you knew my patient husband, you would know how unexpected that was. A friend had innocently asked him if he watched Duck Dynasty, and he barked, “No! And I am getting sick and tired of having the South represented to the rest of the nation as a bunch of rednecks and idiots so that they can laugh at us!” She pointed out that Lizard Lick Towing was a show about people right here, near Wendell (pronounced WenDELL, or even WenDAYull) and that they were probably millionaires by now. He was not swayed. Think about it: David is a guy from a small town in South Carolina, and he sounds like it. Although he graduated from college with honors, was in the National Honor Society, the Who’s Who in American High School students, and on and on, every time he opens his mouth, he is judged. Why do Southerners do this to themselves?

I guess it started with Hee-Haw and The Dukes of Hazard. Southerners never saw the inside of a school, hung out in cornfields, and the girls’ wardrobes consisted of nothing but super-short denim bottoms and gingham halter tops. Around Dukes of Hazard time, David worked for a company with a home office in Chicago, and he said once, “I know they think that we’re all barefoot on dirt floors and don’t even know how to use our computers.” Years later, we all laughed at The Blue Collar Comedy Hour, but I worried that the rest of the country really believed that everyone below the Mason-Dixon was a redneck. Yes, there are uneducated people here, but do we think everyone in New Jersey is a Jersey Shore cast member? Do we think that all African-Americans are gangsta rap artists? If you said yes to either of those questions, you need more help than I can give you.

The latest reality show line-up is beyond appalling, though. Michael roars, “Swamp People is on the History Channel! How is Swamp People history?” He mourns that his favorite channel has sold out to the alligator wrestling demographic. Even worse, Duck Dynasty is on A&E, which is “Arts and Entertainment.” This used to be a high-end channel, but I think the princess has some hayseeds in her hair. Granted, it is about a family that is now rich due to the sale of their duck calls, but take a look. We’re not talking Downton Abbey here.

Taking a quick poll of our rural North Carolina neighborhood’s vocations, I can name: nurse, food service worker, retired police officer, engineer, nurse again, plumber, retired military, librarian (me!), realtor (David), and wedding planner. I haven’t seen any wedding planners in these reality shows. I suppose Daisy Duke would be happy to end up with the Duck Call King. I know he’d be happy.

A colleague and I were laughing the other day about the Designing Women episode in which Julia Sugarbaker is berating an editor in New York about his view of the South. She drawls, “We’re from Atlanta: the one that burned? We’ve rebuilt.” Apparently, we’re burning again. It’s homeowner arson this time, and we can’t even collect the insurance.

I was heartened to read yesterday that Senator Manchin of West Virginia has formally asked MTV to cancel Buckwild, which he considers raunchy and a poor representation of West Virginians. It just goes to show how bigoted I am when I read the article and thought, “Huh! Well, that’s a revelation.” We need more voices joining his, though, and there are more states to defend! I’ve lived in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Kentucky, and I’ll step up to the plate for any and all of them. C’mon, y’all! Let’s be proud and get loud.

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Of Gardens and Guns

My reigning favorite magazine is Garden & Gun, particularly when I see the reaction I get when I say the title. People are so eager to be offended these days! It’s hilarious. I think that it must be fashionable to be offended by anything that could possibly be politically incorrect, and guns are certainly so. However, G&G is a glossy, beautiful, and engrossing read for anyone who lives in the South or wishes to live here. I do sometimes feel that I should have more money before being allowed to read it, since they talk about art and equestrian vacations and such, but at least I can know about such things. One knife-maker, for example, creates exquisite chef’s knives for $600 a pop, and I found out in the latest issue’s article on Pappy Van Winkle bourbon that it costs $45 – $60 a glass at a bar– when you’re lucky enough to find it.

If you like them on Facebook, you can see the results of their Good Dog photo contest (Awww!), and you even get playlists of recording artists they are featuring. Best of all, we found a recipe for what turned out to be our favorite fall cocktail last year, just in time for football season! It was so good I almost didn’t mind hand-grating the fresh ginger.

Their subtitle is “The Soul of the South,” and they are really on top of things. I read an interview with Kathryn Stockett a couple of years ago, before The Help became a huge hit or there was even a hint of a movie. I also found out recently that the wonderful Norah Jones (My husband calls her Snorah Jones) had a new album out before anyone else was talking about it. Then they posted several sample songs on Facebook. Plus, they have a few famous Southern authors with regular columns.

My husband loves the magazine as much as I do, and not just for the bourbon. There are hilarious and brilliant articles on frog hunting, great barbecue, and where to find the most beautiful etched guns. See, there really are guns. As for gardens, they had a large feature on Eudora Welty’s gardens a while back, and they also had an issue devoted to land conservation efforts in the South. The photographs are always stunning.

So, at the risk of sounding like Garden & Gun’s marketing department, you really need to get you some. It’s not expensive, and my only regret is that it only comes out six times per year. Or at least go on their website and look at all the sweet dog pictures.

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