In The Media
September 04, 2012
Not exactly the most suitable cocktail party conversation starter anywhere in the country, but take that notion deep into the heart of Dixie and you might find yourself running from the possum-hunting conservatives, trailer-park lifers, and prayer warriors Chuck Thompson encountered during the two years he spent traveling the American South asking the question: Would we be better off without 'em? Read more...
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Not exactly the most suitable cocktail party conversation starter anywhere in the country, but take that notion deep into the heart of Dixie and you might find yourself running from the possum-hunting conservatives, trailer-park lifers, and prayer warriors Chuck Thompson encountered during the two years he spent traveling the American South asking the question: Would we be better off without 'em?
The result is a heavily researched, serious inquiry into national divides which is unabashedly controversial, often uproarious, and always thought-provoking. From a church service in Mobile, Alabama, where the gospel entertainer announces "Islam is upon us " to a store selling Ku Klux Klan memorabilia on a quaint little street in South Carolina--Thompson lifts the green velvet drapes on a South that would seem to belong more to the time of Rhett and Scarlett than the dawn of the twenty-first century.
By crunching numbers, interviewing experts, and roaming the not-so-former Confederacy, Thompson--an openly disgruntled liberal from the Northwest--makes a compelling case for southern secession. What would the new nations look like if Virginia governor Bob McDonnell was elected as the first President of the Confederate States of America? If a southern electorate was left to fend for itself while the North did damage control on an economy decimated by cut-rate southern workers who operate as a rival nation within its own borders? If the BCS championship football game were replaced by a North vs. South Coca Cola/ Starbucks Blood Bowl(TM)? If Florida went to the South and Texas to the North in the most complex land-and-population grab in American history?
"Better Off Without 'Em "is a deliberately provocative book whose insight, humor, fierce and fearless politics, and sheer nerve will spark a national debate that is perhaps long overdue.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-07-30
- Reviewer: Staff
Acerbic travel writer Thompson (Smile When You're Lying) turns his withering gaze southward in this lengthy argument for Southern secession. Employing a litany of quotes, studies, and interviews (often with folks that must surely be the most reprehensible specimens he could dig up, including proud Klansmen) to bolster this hilariously over-the-top "apoplexy of northern martyrdom," Thompson argues that the South's deep-rooted ties to evangelical Christianity, allegiance to socially conservative politics, and failure to look toward the long-term has had a detrimental effect on the region, as well as on the nation as a whole, resulting in a surfeit of exploited American workers living paycheck to paycheck, terrible public schools, and latent racism operating under the guise of the Religious Right. It may sound like a hodgepodge of allegations, but Thompson's mix of vitriol, bewilderment, humor, and research holds the seemingly disparate elements together and makes for an entertaining, if absurdly hyperbolic, read. Fans of Thompson's previous work (those familiar with his screed against school teachers in Smile will find some tonal similarity in his chapter on college football) will get the most out of the book, but even proud Southerners will likely be find a few thought-provoking problems to chew on. (Aug.)