Monday, May 18, 2009

The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg

Until now, I have not read Rick Bragg's books about his kin in Alabama. There are so many other books to read, and I was not sure I wanted to get involved in another dysfunctional family story. With elements of alcohol, poverty, hunting, fishing, fighting, fast cars, heartache, and living a macho life in a rural setting from which some people can not escape, his books sounded too much like life where I grew up. Hitting too close to home. But I wanted an audiobook as I left the library Monday and The Prince of Frogtown was sitting in the library's new items display, so I took it. By the next afternoon when I went back to work, I had already listened to four of seven discs.

In The Prince of Frogtown, Bragg tells a classic tale well - that of a man who will not control his vices - Bragg's father. The author can not excuse Charles Bragg of his many sins, for he is still too hurt himself, but he looks deeply into all the elements that formed his father. There was the father's father and brothers who all spent their weekends in drunkenness. There was the mill town where everyone breathed the cotton dust. There were friends who were just as trapped by their early marriages and big families. What lifts the story is Bragg's graceful, eloquent storytelling and his determination to find something good to say about a lousy father. In this, he succeeds.

Between his chapters about his father, Bragg inserts little stories about his relationship with his stepson. In these, he struggles to find the proper way to be a father, a difficult task for someone who had such a bad example. The extent to which he succeeds is debatable, but he seems to be loved even in ineptitude.

The Prince of Frogtown should interest many readers and would be a great choice for discussion groups. I now want to go back to Bragg's previous writings.

Bragg, Rick. The Prince of Frogtown. Books on Tape, 2008. ISBN 9781415953990


Citizen Reader said...

An interesting post about an interesting writer. I can't say I love him, although there was something hypnotic about "All Over but the Shoutin'" (which I'd read next, if you were interested). I never really seek out his books but once I start them I generally have to finish, although, like you, I'm not always drawn to the dysfunctional family memoirs.

Lisa W said...

Kalamazoo County's community read featured all three of Rick Bragg's memoirs. The books were well received and the audience fell in love with Rick Bragg when he visited. He really knows how to tell a story.

maggie moran said...

You could join the Southern Reading Challenge and add this to two other southern books for the summer with chances to win autographed copies of southern books and chocolate pecans!!! Hum The Bragg trilogy/thrillogy?!?

ricklibrarian said...

"Hypnotic" is a good description. I was mesmerized. I am glad to hear his books did foster good discussion. I wonder if our Big Read would consider him. I can't resist chocolate pecans.

KY Warrior Librarian said...

Rick's "All Over but the Shoutin' " is one of my all time favorite reads. And Rick Bragg the man is a lovely guy. He was at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest a couple of years back and had the audience entranced. He does indeed know how to tell a story.