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Reviews Our regular review section features some of the best new books, films, and sound recordings in southern studies. From time to time you'll also find reviews of important new museum exhibitions and public-history sites, and retrospectives on classic works that continue to shape our understanding of the region and its people. Our aim is to explore the rich diversity of southern life and the methods and approaches of those who study it. Please write us to share your suggestions, or to add your name to our reviewer file. Roy Blount's Book of Southern Humor. Edited by Roy Blount Jr. Norton, 1994. 672 pp. Cloth, $27.50. Reviewed by Michael McFee, assistant professor ofEnglish at the University ofNorth Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is editor of the recently published The Language They Speak Is Things to Eat: Poems by Fifteen Contemporary North Carolina Poets. Why in the literary world hasn't someone done this before? That is, put together a big old Bible of southern humor, songs and stories and poems and letters and memoirs and essays and other amusing utterances? Sure, various southern lit anthologies have included small congregations of humorists or satirists; and even Bennett Cerf, in his Encyclopedia of Modern American Humor (1954), included a section called "The Southland." (Peevish aside: isn't that a patronizing term? Cerfs other sections aren't called "The Midwestland" or "The Far West Land." And listen to this incredible sentence from his foreword: "In attempting , for the first time, to divide the contents on a regional basis, I was astonished to discover how much of our contemporary humor centers about New York City, although the Deep South, by virtue of a tradition-scorning and unfettered group of young scriveners, is closing in by leaps and bounds." The South may be many things, but "tradition-scorning " is not one of them.) Well, this has been done before, at least once. Or, more accurately, twice, in A Collection ofClassic Southern Humor: Fiction and Occasional Fact by Some ofthe South's Best Storytellers , Volumes I (1984) and Il (1986), edited by George William Koon of Clemson University . 1 have those books, and I've read them. But though 1 appreciate Professor Koon's efforts, all of the pieces are prose. Southern humor deserves a more varied treatment than that. Which is where Roy Blount comes in, and his Book ofSouthern Humor. It could eas- 494Southern Cultures ily have been called Roy Blount's BIG Book ofSouthern Humor, except for the excessive bilabials : the book runs almost seven hundred pages and features one hundred forty-nine examples of the varieties of southern humor (mentioned back in my opening sentence), dating from the nineteenth century to the present. But what makes this anthology so good isn't just its size and scope: it's the editor, who knows his region and his humor, and who has written ten other books of his own funny stuff. This, though, is Roy's magnum opus: it's a good thing nobody has done a collection quite like this before, because it's the book Roy was born to do. And the way he does it isn't the way Bennett Cerf or George William Koon or even E. B. and Katharine White (in their classic Subtreasury ofAmerican Humor) might do it: that is, by providing a prefatory Overview of Humor and then gathering the selections without further comment. No, Roy makes no pretense of editorial objectivity: he plays the garrulous southern host, introducing at digressive length (his often hilarious intro is seventeen pages, much longer than the Whites' dozen, and longer than most pieces in his book) and returning frequently to make sure everything's going well. In fact, after his general prefatory remarks, he returns to introduce every author individually, often with another story, sometimes at length. If you count all his introductions, there are really close to three hundred humorous pieces in this anthology. With most editors and most anthologies, this would be an unbearable imposition. But with the convivial yet astute Roy, and with this material, it's just right, like a long, delightful party, with drinks and dinner and dancing and entertaining...


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