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Better Off without 'Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secessionby Chuck Thompson
Synopses & Reviews
Lets talk about secession.
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 auto industry decimated by cut-rate, union-defying southern voters for the last hundred years? If the BCS championship football game were replaced by a North vs. South Coca Cola/ Starbucks Blood Bowl™? 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.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Often thoughtful, always irreverent...a raucous road trip through the South with a funny, informed, sardonic and opinionated Yankee." Kirkus Reviews
"Thank you for the copy of Better Off without 'Em, but I'm afraid it's New York and San Francisco that I think should secede." P.J. O’Rourke
"Fry yourself some grits, unfurl that Confederate flag, and read this gem of a book. Chuck Thompson doesn't have a politically correct bone in his Yankee body. He skewers the South mercilessly, and hilariously. And backs up his barbs with facts. Lots of facts. Better Off without 'Em is sure to set hearts racing, on both sides of the Mason Dixon line." Eric Weiner, New York Times bestselling author of The Geography of Bliss
Dubbed "savagely funny" (The New York Times) and "wickedly entertaining" (San Francisco Chronicle), acclaimed travel writer Chuck Thompson embarks on a controversial road trip to prove that both sides might be better off if the South were to secede once and for all.
"He's a travel writer like Anthony Bourdain is a food writer," writes The Oregonian about Chuck Thompson. In Better Off without 'Em, the biggest book of his career, Thompson offers a heavily researched, serious inquiry into national divides that is unabashedly controversial, often uproarious, and always thought-provoking.
By crunching numbers, interviewing experts, and traveling the not-so-former Confederacy, Thompson — an openly disgruntled liberal Northwesterner — makes a compelling case for Southern secession. Along the way, he interacts with possum-hunting conservatives, trailer park lifers, prayer warriors, and other regional trendsetters, showing that the South's perverse church-driven morality, politics, and personality never have and never will define the region as a fully committed part of the United States. 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.
About the Author
Chuck Thompson is the author of several books, including the comic travel memoirs Smile When You're Lying and To Hellholes and Back. His writing and photography have appeared in numerous publications, including Outside, Men's Journal, Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, and Maxim.
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