The Kansas City Star calls John Shelton Reed "an H. L. Mencken of Dixie." "A writer this funny is dangerous, " says the Raleigh News and Observer. Here Reed is in peak form as he takes a hard, often humorous look at a region he claims has created its own quasi-ethnic group: the American Southerner. Is the South changing? You bet, says Reed. Industrialism, urbanization, and desegregation are just a few of the things that have changed it almost beyond recognition. In fact, one constant in the South is change. "Those who like their boundaries well defined should not attempt to talk about Southerners, " writes Reed. But for those willing to ask some difficult questions about the life and culture of the elusive Southerner, this is the place to start. Where is the South? Does it begin at the Mason-Dixon Line or the "Hell, yes!" line - where people begin to answer that way when asked if they're Southerners? Is it where kudzu grows? Or where bourbon is preferred over scotch? How do Southerners come by their reputation for laziness? What happens to Southern ways when Southerners leave the South - or Yankees come to it? How does the rest of the world perceive Southern women? To address that question Reed examines the Southern belles and good ol' girls who have made it into the page of Playboy. (Sorry, pictures not included.). In the title piece of this collection, Reed peruses country music lyrics to explore white Southern attitudes toward violence, from more-or-less-traditional homicides - romantic triangles and lovers' quarrels - to brawls that target everything from dogs to vending machines. And he cites his own "My Tears Spoiled My Aim" as one of the great unrecorded country songs of our time: My tears spoiled my aim; that's why you're not dead. I blew a hole in the wall two feet above the bed. I couldn't see where you were at, my tears were fallin' so. I tried to shoot by ear, but y'all were lyin' low. Perhaps one of the things that best defines the South is like my
John Shelton Reed taught for thirty-one years at the University of North Carolina, where he directed the Howard Odum Institute for Research in Social Science and helped to found the university's Center for the Study of the American South. A founding coeditor of the quarterly Southern Cultures, he has received many fellowships and prizes and has been president of the Southern Sociological Society and the Southern Association for Public Opinion Research. He was once a judge at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, and in 2001 he was elected to the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Reed has written many books including Kicking Back and Surveying the South (both with University of Missouri Press). He lives and writes in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.