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Reviews497 and 1 very often feel blue, and about twice in a while I go to the doggery and git blue, and then 1 look up at the blue cerulean heavens and sing the melancholy chorus of the Blue-tailed fly. I'm doin' my durndest to harmonize, and think I could succeed if it wasn't for sum things. That's a long excerpt, but a grand one, full of rage and pride and (yet) humor, its dialect striking just the right tone. I'd never heard it before I read this book, and now I'll never forget it. "Being humorous in the South," says Roy Blount, "is like being motorized in Los Angeles or argumentative in New York—humorous is not generally a whole calling in and of itself, it's just something that you're in trouble if you aren't." Well, Roy is, by nature and by calling—in magazines, on the air, in his books, and now in this wonderful vigorous collection, which should displace all those other fat, dated Yankee anthologies of humor, especially in the hearts of southerners. I'm sure that Roy Blount's Book ofSouthern Humor will lead people to mistake him for an Expert on Southernness and Humorousness, and I'm sure that (like any self-respecting southerner and writer) he will resist being Definitive . Which leads, finally, to this Roy-story, one of my favorites: I hate it when I am out on what is known as an author tour, and some hard-nosed interviewer tries to outflank my shameless book-mongering by asking questions designed to get to the bottom of humor; what is funny, after all; why do we laugh; and how did I, personally, get to be supposedly hilarious? Sometimes I try hard to be responsive to these questions; sometimes I try hard to make it clear why I believe that my being responsive to these questions would be a bad idea; in either case the interviewer eventually looks at me as though he or she wishes I would quit. So I do. If I am in luck, the next question is "Do Southerners laugh at different things than Northerners do?" "Yes," I say. "Northerners." From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in the Cotton Plantation South: Central Georgia, 1800-1880. By Joseph P. Reidy. University of North Carolina Press, 1992. 360 pp. Cloth, $45.00. Reviewed by Mitchell Snay, associate professor of history at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and author of Gospel of Disunion: Religion and Separatism in the Antebellum South. He is currently interested in the process ofsocial development and cultural evolution in slaveholding societies. Over the last few decades, historians have set forth a compelling interpretation of the nineteenth-century American South centered around the power and persistence of white planters and the oppression and subordination of African Americans. Joseph P. Reidy, in this compactly and convincingly argued book, examines the rise, fall, and transformation of the slaveholding South by focusing on six counties surrounding the city of Macon in central Georgia. This choice, quite representative of the cotton plantation South, allows him to address the vital distinction between city and country often overlooked in studies 498Southern Cultures that attempt to encompass the South as a whole. The result is local history at its best. Reidy etches the broad strokes of historical change and development in meticulous detail and rich color. Like much of the antebellum cotton South, central Georgia was a world of yeoman , planters, and slaves. The area was first settled by small farmers who owned perhaps a few slaves at most. The demands of building a society on the frontier compelled white farmers to work alongside their black slaves planting cotton. Not unlike their counterparts in the preindustrial North, these Georgia yeoman lived in an economic world that incorporated both buying and selling in a larger market and exchanging goods and services among neighbors. Yet it was the large cotton planters who shaped southern society in their own image. They fashioned the social relations of economic production to bind the slaves to the plantation order, dominated local political power by practically monopolizing the inferior courts of the counties, and constructed...


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