Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Excess and eccentricity

One of the best parts about being a book reviewer is being surprised by what books arrive in the mail. One of the worst parts about being a book reviewer is being surprised by what books arrive in the mail.

One of the books I got this time around was purportedly a humorous memoir. It was also a Christian memoir overflowing with Bible verses, half pages of verses and citations and prayers and, even though some of the prayers were funny, most of them were tedious. Every chapter contained some heavy-handed Christian dogma and, while I understand and appreciate religious zealotry, it was also also a bit much.

At times like these, I focus on the story and the tale being told. I don't share the author's beliefs or his way of looking at and dealing with things, but I respect his right to do so. I'm a reviewer. I don't have to believe or even share a writer's faith, just critique how well he writes and gets his point across. Sometimes it's hard to do, but that's why I get paid the big bucks.

I have to admit there were times I laughed out loud, but Southern writers are all about excess and eccentricity and they put their madness right out on the front porch in the rocking chair with a pitcher of sweet tea close to hand. Southerners are proud of their loony relatives, not like the rest of the country who hide their mad relatives in the attic or in nursing homes and sanitariums, although nowadays they call them spas or treatment centers.

They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick is as Southern and funny as it gets and in that respect Todd Starnes did a good job. It's a Christian book and that should guide every reader's decision. If you don't mind the constant references to church brothers, sisters and families or Bible verses or the Christian agenda, plow ahead and enjoy yourself. There is a lot to like and Todd's story is an amazing journey from the abyss looking at death to running a New York marathon, a journey that covers the loss of 150 pounds and of both of his parents as he turns his life around, but refuses to give up BBQs and all things pig.

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