Monday, March 9, 2009

Fried Chicken Sandwiches and Front Porch Bathtubs

I've already said that I dislike persuasion, especially as it applies to really good books that one loves. Having to explain what makes a book good just takes all the shine off of it, and made my literature classes in college rather unpleasant for me.

Good. Now that we have that out in the open, I'll just say that you should hurry up and read something by Bailey White if you haven't already. After you've done that, find a recording of her reading the same book. She has a surprisingly old-lady sound to her voice (surprising once you have seen her youthful self in photographs); a nice sort of creaky southern resonance that is perfect for relating the stories that she will tell you.

Either way, get comfortable, pour some iced tea, and have plenty of kleenex on hand. I'm telling you, hysteria will ensue, but you might cry for other reasons. I've laughed myself sick over some of her stories and they have stayed with me for years. To this day, I can't go into a teacher's lunch room without thinking of Bailey White, because she once told a story that started with two teachers sitting outside on a curb in the teacher's parking lot eating fried chicken sandwiches--sitting out there because that is not the kind of lunch that you can eat inside of a teacher's lunch room. You might not find that funny, but you would if you had ever carelessly brought something containing fat calories to eat in one of those bastions of raw vegetables, unflavored nonfat yogurt, and diet talk.

Here, these will get you started.

The Telephone Man. Not all of her stories are funny, but I'm not going to get involved in a lot of that book review language (touching! ground-breaking!). You can read this story and listen to it both, all while looking at a photo of Bailey herself. This National Public Radio page has some links to more of her audio stories.

Mama Makes Up Her Mind (this is the one that has the front porch bathtub in it)

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