A few weeks ago, I did a good thing for myself and got a public library card! I have to say, I am SO IMPRESSED with Savannah’s library system. The branch I go to is literally right next to my office in a huge, lovely neo-classical building. It’s got great facilities, tons of computers — I can barely believe such a wondrous place exists and will give me any book I want and let me hang out for free!
One of the things I like best about the library is their ‘new releases’ section, which is similar to what you see when you walk into Barnes and Noble… except, of course, you can borrow these FOR FREE! So far I’ve had great luck and am finding tons of books I might not have heard of otherwise. Hands down my favorite so far is Dispatches from Pluto by Richard Grant.
I didn’t just like this book, I *loved* it. I read whole pages of it aloud to Manny and laughed hysterically. Honest to goodness, it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year.
There’s probably a reason it resonated with me so strongly: It’s a good old-fashioned tale of urban exodus. At the start, Grant and his girlfriend, Mariah, are living in a NYC shoebox, bleeding cash and worrying over their dog, who seems to have slumped into a deep depression. Then Grant travels to the Mississippi Delta to visit his friend, cookbook author Martha Foose. Enchanted with the place, he decides — on a whim — to buy a big, rambling farm house in a small hamlet called Pluto. The rest of the book details their transition during that first year, ending on a poignant note, which I won’t spoil for you.
Grant is the quintessential outsider — a liberal white British journalist transplanted into a former plantation community. He and Mariah are unmarried Democrats who find themselves befriended by a group of traditional, conservative Republicans. ‘Befriended’ is, in fact, probably something of a euphemism as their new neighbors embrace them with a ferocious kindness that would be smothering if it weren’t so completely sincere. As one might expect, race is inevitably a huge part of this book as well, and Grant takes pains to look at his community from all angles — the schools, the politics, the crime, and the pervasive inequality. For the most part, what he offers isn’t sociology or anthropology but a series of stories about individual people he meets and the conversations they have.
There is plenty of minutiae here too — I loved his descriptions of the house itself and their unruly garden, which is riddled with mosquitos, poisonous snakes, and armadillos. There are guns, hunting trips, raucous parties, jazz clubs, prison visits, and rounds of golf with Morgan Freeman. Grant also introduces us to something called a “koolickle” and one of the strangest murder-for-hire tales I’ve ever heard. It’s the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil of the Delta — and if you liked that book, you’ll like this one too.